The North Middle School 8th grade basketball team, front row from left: Cacee Adams, Tracelyn Strand, Aaliyah Jones. Back row from left: Coach Trace Murray, Julie Nichols, Mari Richards, Kaitlyn Thompson, Shyanne Dudley, Sammi Bear Runner, Coach Alex Connor. Photo courtesy of Trent Strand

Native Sun News Today: North Middle School to compete nationally

RAPID CITY – North Middle School 8th grade basketball players Aaliyah Jones, Cacee Adams, Kaitlyn Thompson, Mari Richards, Shyanne Dudley and Tracelyn Strand were all petitioned up to play for the Junior Cobblers of Rapid City Central after the middle school season.

The North Middle School team had won the middle school city championship against South 75-36 and won each other regular season game with a score differential around or above 25 points. And now a majority of the all-native team will be traveling to Las Vegas, Nevada in March to play in the Native American Elite Middle and High School Basketball Nationals.

A basketball tournament was already booked in South Dakota for the girls, but plans were changed shortly after the invite to Las Vegas was received. Tracelyn Strand was immediately excited because “South Dakota teams don’t get a lot of recognition” and Mari Richards said “I didn’t expect it to go farther than it has.”

In the tournament the team will be playing against all-native basketball teams from all over the country. Most of their opponents are from the American South West or Pacific North West, but there are teams from as close as Wyoming and Colorado.

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Posted by Native American Elite Middle & High School Basketball Nationals on Saturday, March 7, 2020

When asked about their goals for traveling and playing in the tournament, Tracelyn Strand and Cacee Adams both agreed that “a W or two would be nice”. After scoping out some of the other teams in the tournament, Aaliyah Jones said that “seeing different teams play in competition will be nice” because of the repetitive competition playing in the Black Hills area. “I think it is going to give us experience in playing girls in town in the future,” she continued “whatever the competition brings us, we will be ready”

But for Mari Richards the tournament means a fast track into a possible future. Richards said “I want to get noticed and just play my game. After this I hope I gain larger coach recognition.” She has long term goals in basketball after becoming recognized by wanting to play for an elite college like UCLA or Duke, and then play for the LA Sparks.

Getting noticed by coaches and scouts at a national tournament is not out of the question for any of the girls, especially for Mari Richards who stands 6 feet tall and holds immense roles on both offense and defense. But all of the players have their niche abilities that make the team successful. Skills like Aaliyah Jones and Kaitlyn Thompson’s ability to shoot, and Tracelyn Strand’s unrelenting effort.

With the excitement and commitment from both parents and players alike for attending this tournament, it is easy to see how large of an impact that basketball has in our communities.


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