CITY, Ariz. - It may be summertime but the basketball practices
inside the palace of Arizona high school sports arenas,
Warrior Pavilion, are just as intense as in mid-January.
Jamie Roe runs his Tuba City High School Lady Warriors through
yet another defensive scheme, teaching the girls to double
team the opposition in the corners, trying to force yet another
ill-advised cross-court pass.
catch on quickly, which comes as no surprise to Roe, who says
that his team "never rebuilds, we just reload."
all, the Lady Warriors had won three straight Arizona Class
3A state championships before the star player on last seasons
team tore a ligament in her knee during the state semifinals
and the season quickly came tumbling down.
redemption, in the players eyes, lies in their participation
in the first Native American Basketball Invitational. The
Lady Warriors received a first-round bye and will play the
winner of the Monument Valley, Ariz., game against Ignacio,
Colo., on July 9 in Kayenta, Ariz., before the action shifts
to America West Arena in downtown Phoenix.
Lady Warriors will be among the favorites in the 12-team girls
field but, then, what else is new? Three starters return from
last seasons team and Roe said that the junior-varsity
team won twice as many games as it lost.
City High School basketball is a well-oiled machine that rivals
the NBA for singularity of purpose and dedication. The Tuba
City boys also won back-to-back state championships during
the girls three-year run of state titles.
Lady Warriors travel throughout the Southwest during the summer
and play 50 games against a large cross section of competition.
Then, they cool their heels somewhat during the regular high
school season and normally play about 30 games. The game is
so popular here in the western regional center of the Navajo
Nation that Roe takes not one, but two, teams with him on
the road in the summer.
totally dominates the culture here," said senior point
guard Brandi Atene, who is also one of the best cross-country
runners in Arizona. "We play it morning, afternoon and
night. You dont see a house here without a hoop nearby."
is one reason that Atenes running mate in the backcourt,
senior Alicia Slim, was more than a little delighted when
her father was hired for a civil-engineering job in Tuba City
three years ago and moved his family with him from Gallup,
said it was tough leaving behind all her extended clans
sheep, cattle and horses in New Mexico. But Atene said Slim
has a really nice shooting touch, especially from three-point
range, and what better place on the rez to put that on display
than Tuba City.
5,000 passionate fans a game turn out to cheer on the Warrior
teams in a multimillion dollar arena thats the envy
of many NCAA universities. Theres enough space on the
floor of the pavilion for three basketball courts. A snack
bar serves a cafeteria-sized area of tables at the entrance
to the arena. Elevators take fans to their upper-level seats.
once the fans are in place, its like a den of surround
sound, Atene said.
community really backs you. Were all like one big family
here," Atene said.
said she spent her early years in the isolated Navajo Mountain
area near the Utah-Arizona border, the same area which produced
her cousin, Bobby Manheimer, who starred at Monument Valley
High before playing Division 1-A basketball for Lamar University
family moved to Flagstaff and I started playing youth hockey
and football with the boys," Atene said. "That was
good preparation for what Im into now."
hopes that will be another tournament title in Phoenix, where
thousands of Tuba City fans rock America West Arena during
the state high school basketball tournament in March.
work year round on achieving basketball excellence. This is
another opportunity for us to display the results of that
effort," Roe said.