The Little Wound Crusaders played on the opening day of the 40th annual Lakota Nation Invitational in Rapid City, South Dakota, on December 14, 2016. Photo by Garrett Gundlach
Are the Crusaders the dark horse?
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor
PINE RIDGE -- Last season the Red Cloud Crusaders were a team that prided itself on long range shooting and finesse. This year's Crusaders will look nothing of the sort as the team on the court will likely become known for its ability to grind out buckets on offense and punish opponents on defense.
After losing four out of five starters and several key reserves, it would be easy to assume that a program would take a step back. Not at Red Cloud. The Crusaders are as confident as ever as they look to qualify for their first state tournament appearance in nearly a decade.
"I'm really excited about this team," said Crusader head coach Christian McGhee.
Now in his fifth year as leader of the Red Cloud basketball program, McGhee has had the opportunity to brand the Crusaders as a team that looks to press and whom relies heavily on the three-point shot. This year, however, the Crusaders are loaded with athleticism on the wings, physical play on the inside, and a true point-guard running the show.
"This team has a chance to be really good," said McGhee. "It just comes down to hard they are willing to work."
The Crusaders should match up defensively with most teams thanks to the return of defensive stalwart Will Garnier, transfer Russell Leader Charge, and emerging sophomore stars Alejandro Rama and Jesse Jensen.
The four guards will likely share time on the court in McGhee's four-out-one-in motion offense that will allow the Crusaders to capitalize on the high basketball I.Q. of sophomore point-guard Alejandro Rama. Rama who has managed to gain roughly 10-lbs of muscle on his 5'9" frame this off-season should be equipped to better handle the demands of the point guard position.
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Although the Crusaders lack height at the off-guard positions they will benefit greatly from the athleticism of senior transfer Russell Leader Charge and sophomore Jesse Jensen. Leader Charge was a standout defender on last year's White River team that took second in the Lakota Nation Invitational. The combo is considered to be one of the most explosive duos in all of South Dakota.
The Crusaders kick off LNI play against Omaha Nation at 1pm, December 14, in the Rushmore Plaza Ice Arena.
(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at email@example.com)
More LCT Coverage of the 40th annual Lakota Nation Invitational:
Country Times: Big Native basketball tournament opens (12/14)
Country Times: Lower Brule team hopes to make splash (12/14)
Country Times: Pine Ridge girls team aims for state title (12/14)
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