RaeQuan Battle is living out his ‘Hoop Dreams’

RaeQuan Battle, photo courtesy of UW Athletics

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Seventeen-year-old RaeQuan Battle’s basketball journey is filled with tales of amazing athleticism, skyrocketing potential, and a relentless determination to get buckets. The teenage Tulalip tribal member has gone from rez ball regular to Marysville-Pilchuck stand out to a four-star prospect committed to play at the University of Washington.  

“Basketball is in my blood. Without it I don’t know where I’d be,” explains RaeQuan of the sport that has come to define his past, present and future. “Everyone in my family has played. Basketball has given me the opportunity to travel the country and, hopefully in the future, it’ll allow me to travel the world.”

In his junior year at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, RaeQuan dazzled opposing coaches and college scouts everywhere as he averaged 21.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. He was instrumental in guiding the Tomahawks to a 19-5 record, their first District title in over two decades, and a memorable trip to the Class 3A state regionals last winter.

Following his career year at M.P., the University of Washington’s recruiting team was again at his door with scholarship in hand. They convinced the 6-foot-5, 200 pound RaeQuan he’d be a perfect fit in the up-tempo style that features outstanding guard play. Plus, the idea of staying in state to remain close to his family and reservation was a huge perk.

“Being able to play the game I love at my dream school is amazing,” says the future Husky. “I was super excited to receive the offer, especially since the University of Washington had been with me since my sophomore year. They never switched up, they believed in me the whole way, and I really appreciate the coaching staff for that.”

Over the last several seasons, RaeQuan has continued to work on his basketball skills while playing on the national AAU circuit. He’s traveled the country playing for Seattle Rotary, a high-profiled team that competes as part of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. With his height advantage and skill set both growing, so has his profile. Per ESPN’s composite rankings, he is listed as a four-star prospect and the No. 4 overall player in the state of Washington. 

The national attention has garnered him invite after invite to national tournaments and high profile basketball camps, where he can showcase his talents against the best high schoolers around. Such was the case during Labor Day weekend, when RaeQuan was invited by Jamal Crawford, NBA player and Seattle hoops legend, to participate in his Top 30 camp held at Rainier Beach High School.

“This camp means everything to me because it’s all about these kids and giving them perspective that’ll come in handy at the collegiate and pro levels,” admits eighteen-year NBA veteran Jamal Crawford. “I understand that basketball is everything for these kids. The player development coaches we have assisting are here to further develop skills and give knowledge. We want these kids to keep dreaming and to never cheat the game because I promise them if they truly love the game and give their all to it, the game will be good to them.”

During Top 30, RaeQuan not only hooped against some of the best basketball players in the state, but received important advice and training tips from several current NBA players who’ve come out of the greater Seattle area, such as Jamal, Isaiah Thomas, Nate Robinson, and Zach LaVine. 

“The group of high school players I competed against here, everyone had the mentality to just compete and play their best every scrimmage, every drill,” reflects the high-flying RaeQuan, who had a number of acrobatic dunks during the three-day camp. “I learned a lot from Jamal and Isaiah, too. They both emphasized just how hard you have to work, how you have to separate yourself all the time because you can be replaced at any moment. I will take these lessons and apply them to my own game for the remainder of high school, college, and the rest of my life.”

The combination of height, athleticism and scoring touch that has come to define RaeQuan’s game stood out, even in a gym full of Washington’s Top 30 high schoolers. Lead trainer and former men’s basketball coach at Evergreen State College, Arvin Mosley, points out “RaeQuan’s obviously explosive, but his ability to shoot the ball is what separates him. Yeah, he’s athletic and can dunk, but at the next level his shooting touch and range will prove even more valuable.”

Now, the high school senior looks forward to wrapping up his career at Marysville-Pilchuck and dreams of graduating with a state championship. With his Division 1 collegiate playing days only months away, RaeQuan will continue to sharpen his skills on and off the court in order to be a foundational player for the Dawgs of U.W. In his own words, “It’s all up from here.”

EPIC Basketball Camp more than just hoops

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

A one-of-a-kind basketball camp was offered to the youth of the Tulalip Community during the week of August 13-17. The camp was brought together by a team led by Sharmane Joseph and Tulalip Community Health, with help from Tulalip Youth Services and the Tulalip Diabetes Care and Prevention Program. The camp taught local kids the fundamentals of the game and brought a number of guest speakers to talk with the youth about growing up Indigenous.

“It’s called EPIC Basketball Camp and stands for Explore, Pursue, Invest and Challenge,” says Sharmane. “It’s our first year and I’m part of the Community Health department and we wanted to show the community that we don’t work with just one age, we work with the entire community and we’re here for everyone. The first day we had about eighty-one participants and we opened it up at the Boys and Girls Club for the kids who don’t get to come to the youth center.”

During morning drills, the kids worked on their ball handling skills and their shooting techniques. The kids also listened to many keynote speakers throughout the week including Native American rapper Sten Joddi of Tattoo Muzik Group, Native Comedian Mylo Smith Jr. as well as Dereck Stonefish and the Reawakening Warriors and Patty Stonefish of the Arming Sisters group. 

“The kids learn about a variety of things from the guest speakers,” Sharmane explains. “Like Sten, he taught about cultural identity; Patty Stonefish taught self-defense; Dereck Stonefish and the Reawakening Warriors talked about the different things the men go through with abuse and connecting with each other; and Ryneldi Becenti, the first Native American woman to get drafted in the WNBA, had an amazing story about never giving up and building family support.”

Since the camp was split into two different groups, one at the Boys and Girls Club courts and the other at the Greg Williams court, Ryneldi instructed the kids at the youth center while Randy July Jr. ran his Elevate Your Game basketball camp at the Club. Randy had an impressive ball career at Haskell University with potential to play at a professional level. Randy went undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft but continued his journey with basketball by bringing both his experience and message to kids on reservations across the entire country. Ryneldi is in the same line of work and played professionally for the WNBA team Phoenix Mercury in 1997. 

“I’ve been here all week,” says Ryneldi. “I travel to all different reservations and do youth work. I enjoyed my time here in Tulalip. The kids were great, we did a lot of passing, dribbling, shooting drills, footwork and agility moves and then we scrimmaged in the afternoon. It’s been a lot of fun.”

After a week of basketball and motivational speeches, the kids received their own basketball designed with Coast Salish art by the Native American company, Trickster.

“I live in Everett and I love basketball,” says young camper Junior Parrish. “I learned a few new tricks on how to get my hops up. The speaker who stood out to me the most was the lady that taught us about self-protection. Learning about self-defense is really important and I think I could use that in real life. Every morning we’d run a few drills first and then we’d have some fun scrimmaging and playing king of the court later in the day. It was definitely a lot fun and felt good to get some runs in.”

‘Go Hard or Go Home’ league wraps up spring season

Tulalip basketball league – Spring season Champs.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Established in February 2015, the Go Hard or Go Home community basketball league is organized by Youth Services staff and has gained more notoriety with each passing season. Local ballers can be found competing on the hardwood every Monday and Wednesday evenings at the Tulalip Youth Center.

The league is a prime outlet for basketball players of every level. And most importantly, everyone is welcome to participate. There are former high school stand-outs, a couple college players, but mostly people who just love the sport.

After paying a modest fee of $200, each team played a nine-game regular season and everyone had a spot in the postseason playoffs. Giving Tulalip ballers the best bang for their buck has been a priority of the community league. In fact, costs have been minimal and the amount of games plenty when compared to most basketball leagues. 

Spring season saw nearly ninety players make-up the ten teams vying for bragging rights and making the most out the opportunity to play competitive, localized basketball. Ages ranged from early teens to elder statesmen.

“This league is great for the community,” said Fred Brown Jr., long-time community friend and lead-referee of the past season. “Spring season ran for three-months, giving people in the community something to do either as players or spectators. Most interesting to me was the variety of basketball games. There were high-flyers, 3-point specialists, under the rim fundamentally sound guys, and then those playing to get into shape or to stay in shape. It was a good basketball season for everyone involved.” 

 

Two dominant playoff Ws give Hawks chance at 1B District crown

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The Tulalip Heritage Hawks basketball team ended the regular season with a (17-3) overall record, which included a (12-2) record in league play. Both those two inner-league losses came at the hands of a Cedar Park Christian team that finished their season undefeated. When the NW1B District playoff bracket was announced, many expected Tulalip and Cedar Park to meet in the Championship game.

Tulalip entered the tournament as the #2 seed, which allowed them to host an opening round game. Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium was jam packed with friends and family who came out to root on their team on February 1st, when then hosted Shoreline Christian.

These two teams had faced off twice during the regular season and in each the Hawks came away with 30+ point victories. Because of the lopsided nature of those wins, the Hawks started the game sluggish. The defensive rotations weren’t there and the boy just weren’t playing hard. At the end of the 1st quarter, the home team only led by 1 point, 17-16.

During intermission, the Hawks coaching staff lit a fire under the team to get them playing their usual brand of up-tempo, aggressive basketball. The whole squad responded, but none more so than senior guard, Jr. Shay. He was absolutely on fire in the 3rd quarter, scoring 18 points on 7/8 shooting. His intensity was contagious and defensively the Hawks only allowed 16 points the entire 2nd half.

Heritage ended up routing Shoreline 70-39 in front of a crowd of cheering fans. Jr. Shay led all scorers with 21 points, Alonzo Jones added 14 points, and Rodney Barber chipped in 12 points.

Moving onto the 2nd round of the tournament, the Hawks traveled to Lummi where they played the Grace Academy Eagles on February 3rd.  During the regular season Tulalip had defeated Grace by 20+ in both their matchup. This game would mirror those previous ones.

Grace had no answer for the length and athleticism of the Tulalip boys. Center Rodney Barber was corralling rebounds on both ends of the floor and scoring at the rim over the shorter Grace players. After the 1st quarter, the Hawks led 17-12 and would balloon their lead from there.

Hawks players continued to move the ball well offensively, leading to all five starters finding their groove and knocking down shots. Defensively, the Hawks hounded the Grace ball handlers into committing several turnovers. In the 2nd quarter Grace would only score 8 points because of the defensive pressure.

When the buzzer sounded signaling end of game, the Hawks had notched a 67-46 victory, advancing them to the Championship round. Rodney led the Hawks in scoring with 15 points, Nashone Whitebear added 14 points, and Alonzo chipped in 11 points.

Next up, the Hawks will face off against Cedar Park Christian tonight for the NW1B crown. The Hawks nearly beat them the last time they matched up and are looking to ride their recent momentum to an upset victory over the undefeated Cedar Park.

Lady Hawks firing on all cylinders to start postseason

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The Tulalip Heritage Lady Hawks basketball team finished the regular season with a (15-4) overall record, including a perfect (12-0) in league play. Going undefeated against league opponents earned them the #1 seed in the NW1B District playoffs.

Tulalip started the postseason by hosting the Lions from Cedar Park Christian in an opening round game played on February 1. It was obvious from the onset that Tulalip was the much more talented and all-around better team as they took a 5-0 lead, extending it to 13-0, before the Lions finally got on the board right before the end of the 1st quarter. After the first eight minutes of play Heritage led 15-3.

During the entire 1st half, senior guard Keryn Parks put the offense on her back by routinely attacking the basket, finishing through contact, and scoring bucket after bucket. In fact, Keryn scored an impressive 18 points in the first half, outscoring a Cedar Park team who only managed 7 points through the first two quarters.

In the 2nd half, forwards Deandra Grant and Krislyn Parks controlled the game by exploiting the smaller Cedar Park team in the paint. The Lady Hawks played through Deandra and Krislyn who were able to get quality looks from point-blank range.

It was a dominant performance from the Lady Hawks as they won 62-20. They were led in scoring by Keryn’s 26 points, while Deandra added 11 points and 18 rebounds, and Krislyn had 13 points and 13 rebounds.

Two days later, Tulalip travelled to Lummi High School to play Grace Academy in a 2nd round playoff game. The 3-ball was falling early on with guards Georgie Randall and Loralei Eli knocking down multiple shots from deep. At the end of the 1st quarter, the Lady Hawks led 15-10.

In the 2nd quarter, the Lady Hawks were hit foul calls left and right, none bigger than Keryn getting her 3rd personal foul in the early going. Due to that foul trouble Keryn hit the bench and in her absence the team stepped up admirably. From that point on the team’s defense locked in and didn’t allow Grace Academy any easy looks. Meanwhile, the coaching staff adjusted their offense to run everything through Deandra in the post.

With Keryn on the bench, Deandra shouldered the offensive burden with ease. She was often double and even triple teamed, but it didn’t matter. She was just too big and too strong. Deandra scored 18 points from the 2nd quarter on. Combine her scoring with a Tulalip defense that was locked in, they held Grace to only 5 points in the 2nd quarter and then an astounding 1 point in the 3rd quarter, and Heritage ran away with a 60-34 victory.

Deadra led all players in scoring with 20 points, including double digits rebounds and blocks, while Georgie and Keryn both chipped in 11 points.

The 2-0 start to the postseason gives the Lady Hawks a berth in the NW1B Championship game where they will play Mt. Vernon Christian tonight at 5:00 p.m. at Lummi High School.

Tulalip Boys and Girls Club teaches life fundamentals through basketball

By Kalvin Valdillez. Tulalip News 

“I always tell the kids, the number one thing you should do while you’re on the court is have fun,” expresses Tulalip Boys and Girls Club Athletic Director, JP Miranda. Currently in mid-season, the Boys and Girls Club athletic program is teaching the Tulalip youth the fundamentals of basketball. The Tulalip club participates in an eight-week long basketball season in which they compete in weekly games against nearby Boys and Girls Clubs such as Arlington, Granite Falls, Everett and Mukilteo.

The Tulalip league consists of eleven teams starting with a co-ed kindergarten team. With the exception of the kindergarten squad, every team is based on which grade the child is in. The teams begin with students who are in the first and second grade, a boys’ team and a girls’ team respectfully, and range all the way up to seventh and eighth grade teams. Due to popularity, there were enough participants this year for an additional team of boys first and second grade students as well as boys third and fourth graders.

“Kids are going through a lot, not just home and family, but at school. Bullying is a big issue right now,” says JP. “All children crave the most is support from their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Right now there is a decline in sports for boys and girls, that cut off in participation is around fourth and sixth grade due to either a poor coaching experience or lack of support. But on the other side of that, some kids who play select sports are getting burned out and stop participating because they feel they didn’t have the time to just be kids. Also technology, phones, laptops, game consoles are really taking a lot away from their participation. When kids come into the gym and are looking at their phones I tell them to grab a basketball and start dribbling.”

Throughout the season the little ballers learn the basics of basketball. While the younger kids learn essential knowledge and skills such as shooting, passing, dribbling and rebounding, the older kids work on plays, footwork, screens and cuts. All the kids however, learn the importance of defense, communication and accountability by learning how to play as a team.

“It’s the fundamentals they have to know, even in the NBA they still practice the fundamentals,” states JP. “The biggest fundamental I stress is dribbling. If you’re not able to dribble, you’re not able to get the ball down the court the right way; you’re not going to be able to get set up, pass or shoot.

“The more you practice, the better you get,” he continues. “I like watching them grow and watching them excel on a team and realizing that being part of a team is fun. You have to be able to work as a team to get anywhere.

JP states that although attendance during home games is great, the kids would greatly appreciate more support at away games.

“Any volunteers are always helpful,” he expresses. “It’s amazing to see a child when one of their relatives comes in to volunteer. You hear the excitement when they introduce them, it seriously brightens up that child’s day. And it’s amazing to see a kid who’s out on the court and sees their aunt or uncle on the sideline, they start to play harder cause they know they’re there to watch them. I tell them all the time, when you’re out there on the court remember who you are, where you come from and what your family name means to you because that’s who you represent. You represent yourself, your culture, your tribe, your Native American background and you represent your family. Be proud of who you are and don’t act a fool on the court.”

For more information and to find out how to become a volunteer, please contact the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club at (360) 651-3400.

She Got Game: Women Tribal Members Featured in College Hoops Matchup

Tulalip tribal members Adiya Jones (left) and Kanoa Enick (right) are matched up for the first time as collegiate adversaries.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

They’ve grown up together on the Tulalip Reservation playing more games of rez ball than can be remembered. Years and years of dribbling, rebounding, and hearing the net swish has created countless memories on the hardwood, but an all-new memory was created for Tulalip tribal members Adiya Jones and Kanoa Enick when they matched up for the first time as collegiate adversaries.

In her second year playing for Skagit Valley Community College, Adiya has stepped up and taken the reigns as the team’s unquestioned leader. She is the primary playmaker on offense while also anchoring the team’s defense.

“Adiya is our best player and there’s a reason why. She has a high basketball I.Q., she’s so smooth with the ball, has a great shooting touch, and she’s a willing passer; making her a tremendous asset to our team,” beams Steve Epperson, Skagit’s Athletic Director and Women’s Basketball Coach. “Over the last few games she’s rebounded the heck out of the basketball as well.

“I’m really proud of her as a student, too, because she’s doing really well in school and making great progress towards her degree.”

Meanwhile, Kanoa recently decided to test her medal at Northwest Indian College (NWIC) by enrolling in Winter quarter. Her appetite for getting buckets still strong, she walked onto the women’s basketball team and is quickly showing promise.

“She adds another dimension to our team. Kanoa is a good hustle player, she’s very long and is able to contest shots on the perimeter,” states Matthew Santa Cruz, NWIC’s Women’s Basketball Coach. “She’s also able to take it to the hole, get fouled, and make her free-throws. That’s a real asset in this game.”

And so the stage was set for the two home-grown college athletes to face-off for the first-time ever.

The historical moment took place at the Lummi High School gym, the home court for NWIC, on Friday, December 5. Adiya shined while leading her team with 24-points, but it was Kanoa’s NWIC team taking the W in a 64-61 nail biter.

The following day, the two team’s played once again, this time in Mt. Vernon, giving Adiya’s Skagit squad the opportunity for payback. There were several Tulalip fans in the crowd who journeyed to watch the matchup. Skagit came away with a convincing 66-35 W the second time around, giving both Tulalip women a victory over the other.

Following their second matchup in as many days, Adiya and Kanoa reflected on this new experience.

“I was nervous and excited when I realized we were about to play against each other,” said Kanoa. “It doesn’t come off like we know each other on the court because we’re both so focused on the game. It was really cool to see Tulalips in the stands rooting for us.”

“It was definitely fun. It hit me when I was warming up for our first game; I was thinking ‘this is so weird I’m about to play Kanoa’,” smiled Adiya. “For the younger generation at home in Tulalip, I hope they see this and realize they can attend college and play ball, too. Get outside your comfort zone because, honestly, once you try it you’ll realize how exciting new opportunities are.”

Heritage Hawks remain unbeaten and atop NW 1B standings

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Seven games played, seven games won. The Tulalip Heritage Hawks basketball team (7-0) opened their season with three straight wins versus class 2B schools, then entered league play where they have been crushing it on both ends of the floor.

Their last four opponents have all been within the NW 1B league and the Hawks came away with convincing victories in each game. They defeated Providence Classical Christian 70-32, Orcas Christian 62-46, Lummi Nation 60-43, and Lopez 78-34. That’s a whopping margin of victory by 29 points per game during that span.

Coach Cyrus “Bubba” Fryberg points to two key factors for the Hawks success on the hardwood. First, is defensive hustle; with a team full of athletic wings who can switch at several positions, the Hawks are putting much more emphasis on man-to-man defense instead of zoning up. This defensive intensity makes it difficult for opponents to get into a groove. Secondly, the Hawks consistently play all-around team ball on the offensive end; the ball movement is solid with players routinely making the extra pass to an open teammate. This has led to several Hawks averaging double-digit points.

On the calendar for early next month is a home showdown with also unbeaten Cedar Park Christian (6-0) on Friday, January 5. The matchup will be a barometer for both teams to see who has the advantage for taking home the NW1B crown.

Lady Hawks bounce back with 4 straight Ws

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The Tulalip Heritage Lady Hawks started their season (0-3), with each loss coming to a class 2B school. However, since then they have played 1B schools within their league and have reeled off four consecutive victories.

Victories against Orcas Christian 56-23, Marysville-Getchell JV 52-17, Lummi Nation 64-35, and Lopez 56-42 have propelled the Lady Hawks to (4-3) and atop the NW1B standings. Now, they are playing with a renewed sense of purpose led behind the stellar post-play of Deandra Grant and all-around game of Keryn Parks.

Assistant Coach, Tempest Dawson attributes the team’s turnaround to “a lot of individual work that has helped our team’s growth because our girls needed to build on the fundamentals. We’ve also been doing a lot of work on our fast breaks, transitioning into our offense quickly.”

The uptick in offense has definitely been on display. The Lady Hawks only averaged 36 points over their first three contests, but have been averaging 57 points per game during their four-game winning streak. A large part of that increase in buckets has been senior center Deandra raising her level of play. She’s become a powerhouse in the paint scoring 20+ points over the last four games.

“I knew we had to step up our game and I’ve been focused on playing my best because we could take the number one spot in our league,” beamed Deandra following the team’s win over Lopez, in which she scored 29 points. “This [winning streak] lets the other teams in our league know that we’re going to be pretty hard to beat down the stretch.”

Hawks start season with perfect 3-0 record

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

This time last year, the Tulalip Heritage boys basketball team was (0-4) and in desperate search of a W. What a difference a year makes. Coach Bubba Fryberg has taken over head coaching duties for the boys team, assisted by Jared Parks and Marc Robinson, and together they’ve coached their team to a (3-0) start to the new season. Most impressive, all three Ws have come against 2B schools, a division higher than Heritage’s 1B classification.

In their home opener, the Hawks hosted the Mount Vernon Christian Hurricanes on November 29th. Family and friends filled the bleachers to watch a very entertaining game. It couldn’t have started any better for the Hawks; they jumped out to an 11-0 lead and pushed that to 17-4 at the end of the 1st quarter. The ball was moving and every starter had scored points.

Defensively, the Hawks weren’t allowing anything at the rim or in the paint. The Hurricanes were forced to settle with contested jumper after contested jumper.

Over the 2nd and 3rd quarters, the ball continued to move well for the Hawks and the point distribution continued. Going into the final quarter the Hawks led 38-24.

The 4th quarter saw a blowout turn into a grit and grind game. Suddenly, the Hurricanes couldn’t miss and the Hawks couldn’t buy a bucket. The lead dwindled by the minute and with only 21 seconds remaining the Hawks led 41-40 with Mt. Vernon Christian inbounding the ball. Tulalip played solid defense that resulted in a contested 3-pointer that missed, giving the Hawks the W in a front of a frenzied home crowd.

Freshman Alonzo Jones-Smith led all Hawks with 12 points, Rodney Barber scored 10 points, and Paul Shay Jr. chipped in 7 points.

Two days later, on December 1, Tulalip traveled to Darrington High School and won 45-37. The very next day they played again. This time taking on the La Conner Braves. In a heated game that saw multiple runs by both teams, the Hawks pulled out an impressive 49-45 victory. The (3-0) start is the first such undefeated start since the 2013-2014 team that made it all the way to State.

Coach Bubba attributes the team’s early season success to “defensive hustle, more emphasis on man-to-man defense rather than running zone, and all around team effort on offensive.”