Red Lake Nation College Defeats Turtle Mountain Community College, Wins Team's First Game Played
Hoopla took on a double meaning as community and school pride were in evident display as the Red Lake Nation College Migizi (Eagle) and Turtle Mountain Community College Mighty Mikinocks (Turtles) men’s basketball teams met at Red Lake in a college basketball exhibition game.
The Migizi defeated the athletic and talented Turtle Mountain team 99-81. The game was played before an enthusiastic crowd at the Red Lake Nation College home court at the Humanities Center in Red Lake, Minnesota, on Saturday, February 23.
An estimated 500 fans descended on the center to watch college-level basketball for the first time in Red Lake. The game also welcomed the return of Red Lake legendary basketball stars Gerald Kingbird and Delwyn Holthusen to competitive basketball. Kingbird and Holthusen offered leadership to the younger Red Lake players. Holthusen revealed that he still has a powerful and effective inside game, while Kingbird demonstrated he has not lost his talent for the three-point shot.
The dynamic Hulthusen and Kingbird duo established their place in local hoops lore when they led the record-breaking Red Lake Ogichidaag basketball team that went to the state championship tournament in St. Paul for the 1997 Class A semifinal. They played the Wabasso Rabbits (remarkably from Ojibwemowin Waabooz/Rabbit) in what was to become the biggest record breaking game in state basketball history. Records broken included field goals attempted (87), field goals made (48), most points in a quarter (43), most points scored by a losing team (113), total points (230), and more.
And so Kingbird returned to the court as the player/coach for the Red Lake Nation College team. He is a graduate of Bemidji State University and currently works at the Red Lake Casino. Kingbird did not start and held himself to limited play since he has a deep roster of talented and energetic players.
Matt Graves of Red Lake and Kyrell Parisien of Turtle Mountain were declared as the game’s co-MVPs. Graves had twenty points and ten rebounds with a strong inside game. Tim Lajunesse showed great skills and added 18 points and many rebounds. The Mikinocks Parisien also scored high in points and rebounds while displaying an incredible vertical leap of well over three feet. Red Lake showed outstanding team speed and guard play from Tridell Beaulieu, Travis Dow and Martin Wind.
It was an entertaining evening with a pregame Red Lake Legends (age 35 plus) showcase that featured former Red Lake greats such as Buckwheat Graves, Gordy Johnson and Sean Lussier. Red Lake comedian Tito Ybarra was the MC/announcer for the night and Mike Donnell was the DJ. The halftime show included hundred dollar free throw chances for five lucky fans, and free t-shirts for random people in the crowd.
Halftime also highlighted a three-0point shooting contest featuring the best six players from each team . The winner of the three-point shooting contest was Gerald Kingbird who made 16 three-pointers in one minute. Sam Kingbird made 13 threes and Travis Dow made 12.
Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd “Buck" Jourdain Jr., showed a smooth shooting touch by making 10 threes in the "Legends" three-point contest. Jourdain, a former Red Lake High Schhool shooting guard, played in the legends game as well.
The new Red Lake Nation College team will debut as a club team with a limited schedule in the 2013/2014 school year and start with league play in the 2014/2015 school year. (A women’s team will also be fielded.) “We think organized sports can teach students positive lessons about life, teamwork, perseverance and leadership,” said Dan King, Red Lake Nation College President. “Plus, there are studies that show sports programs have a direct link to academic success. In a way, this is wellness through athletic and academic achievement."
When beginning competitive play, the Red Lake Migizi will be joining the Northern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NIAC). In an "on the road" telephone interview with Dan Hovestol, president of the NIAC and athletic director for Oak Hills Christian College in Bemidji, Minnesota, he expressed excitement at Red Lake Nation College joining the conference. "I'm looking forward to hearing from (College President) Dan King and getting the nuts and bolts put together so that the Migizi may begin playing in the NIAC," said Hovestol. "We were pleased to hear of the exhibition game played between Red Lake and our sister team Turtle Mountain."
According to Hovestol, the Red Lake Nation College Migizi will join the following teams in the Northern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference: The Association Free Lutheran Bible School Conquerors, Plymouth, Minnesota; the Cross Roads College Knights, Rochester, Minnesota; the Oak Hills Christian College Wolfpack, Bemidji; the Turtle Mountain Community College Mighty Mikinocks, Belcourt, North Dakota; and the Trinity Bible College Lions, Ellendale, North Dakota.
After the game, the Turtle Mountain team invited Red Lake to their home court for another exhibition game in mid-March. "Perhaps a friendly rivalry is in the making," said King.
The exhibition game was also billed as a Red Lake Nation College campus fund-raiser. Fund-raising came from the 3-point shooting contest, fan free throws, a suggested price admission of $5, and a “Buy-A-Brick” program donation for the new RLNC campus.
King commented that he envisions the Red Lake Community getting behind and supporting the new Red Lake team. He hopes the new team will draw more male college enrollees as the college is currently 65 percent female. "That should be reason enough for some," said King with a laugh. King reiterated that plans are in the works for a women's team as well.
“Our community is very pleased to see the fast growth and development of our Tribal College and this new team is one more example of the excitement that is building within our college," says Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. "This is another great way for our community to show our Red Lake pride.”