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.”
By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; photos courtesy of Adiya Jones
The 13th annual Native American Basketball Invitation (NABI) tournament, presented by Nike N7, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Ak-Chin Indian Community, took place from June 30 thru July 4 in Phoenix, Arizona. NABI has become the largest basketball tournament in the world featuring Native and Indigenous high school youth. This year’s tourney featured 152 teams, totaling 1,600 Native high school-age youth representing teams from all across the United States, Canada and New Zealand. Through NABI, Native American high school athletes are given the opportunity to shine and use their talent to secure college athletic scholarships, while being showcased in front of countless college scouts.
This summer’s tournament featured over 350 games played in three days of pool play and bracket games, with the Gold Division Championship games played at U.S. Airways Center, home of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, on Saturday, July 4. NABI also features a college and career fair, Team Meet & Greet pool party and educational seminars where the high school athletes are taught skills that inspire them to succeed and strive for higher education.
For Tulalip tribal member Adiya Jones, her talents on the basketball court were sought after by Team Nez Perce, the Idaho State Champions from Lapwai, ID. Nez Perce lost in heart breaking fashion in the finals of NABI 2014 and felt that by adding the post presence of Jones they would have enough fire power to win it all this year.
According to Jones, the invitation to play with an all-state championship team was an opportunity she couldn’t refuse. “The Lapwai team have been my rivals in most all-Native tournaments. They’ve always brought out the best in my game when I play against them. Being asked to play with them at NABI was very humbling and would give me a chance to work on my skills while being surrounded with a state champion.”
Not only was Jones playing on the Nez Perce team, but she would be starting at center every tournament game. The combination of speed and outside shooting that separates the Nez Perce girls from their opposition is usually enough to claim victory in any game. Now, with Jones holding down the paint, Nez Perce was the clear favorite to win the Gold Division championship.
Through the first four games of the tournament team Nez Perce, led by Jones, rolled teams in dominant fashion; winning by an average margin of 29 points per game. It wasn’t until the quarter-finals that Nez Perce finally found themselves in a competitive game versus Pueblo Elite. At halftime, the offensive driven Nez Perce, had only managed 7 points and were trailing 7-11.
“It was 112 degrees outside and we were playing our 2nd game in a gym with no A/C,” says Jones, who attributes the team’s poor first half to the tough to play in conditions. “We were super tired, but at halftime we had the chance to rehydrate, sit down, and catch our breath finally.”
Following halftime, Nez Perce would go on to outscore their opponents 31-16 in the 2nd half and claimed a 38-27 victory. Things wouldn’t get any easier for the now battle-tested Nez Perce, as they would have to play their semi-final game in less than two hours. The game would be another highly contested battle, but Nez Perce would prevail 40-33 and get a night’s rest before their championship game versus Cheyenne Arapaho.
The Championship game was held at U.S. Airways Center, home of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 4. It featured two undefeated squads in Nez Perce and Cheyenne Arapaho who were both 7-0 to this point.
As detailed by Jones, “our final game was such a good game. It was so close the whole time, with neither team taking more than a 4 or 5 point lead. It was the only game we played that I had doubts if we’d be able to pull out the win because Cheyenne just looked like they wanted it more. With like 2:00 to play we finally managed a little run and took a 6 point lead, but then Cheyenne pushed the tempo on us and we were really tired so it worked. They went up 2 points with barely any time remaining. We called a timeout, drew up a play, and were fortunate to execute the play perfectly. Cayla Jones made a game-tying basket right before the final buzzer to tie it up.”
The clutch basket by Nez Perce forced a 3-minute overtime period in the final game of the tourney. Nez Perce would ride that momentum in the extra period and earned a hard fought 78-75 victory to claim the Gold Division Championship. For her stellar tournament play, averaging a stat line of 18 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocks, Adiya Jones was awarded tournament MVP.
“I was shocked. Extremely thankful, but shocked more than anything. There were so many good girls there,” says Jones. “My MVP and our tournament Championship is all do to the team chemistry we had. There were several scouts who commented on how good we looked playing together, they thought we had been playing together for years, but this was my first time playing with this team. They made me feel super comfortable in their system and it really showed in my performance. It was definitely the highest level of play I’ve been a part of and the best competition I’ve gotten from a tournament.
“Overall, NABI was such a great experience for me. Off the court I was able to sit down and talk to basketball mentors A.C. Green, 3x NBA Champion, and Kenny Dobbs, world renowned slam-dunk champion. Their words were so inspiring, just hearing them talk of their trials and tribulations…their motivational speeches to us. After the tourney was over I had college coaches and scouts give me their contact information. We’ve had some back and forth via email already and, hopefully, now there are some potential opportunities available for me to play college ball.”
On Wednesday, April 1, 2015 the Associated Press announced their All-State basketball teams for boys and girls high school players, as voted on by sports writers and editors from around the state. La Conner High School junior and Tulalip tribal member, Adiya Jones, was named to the First Team for all Class 2B girls’ high school players in the state.
Prior to this past year Adiya was the face of the Heritage High School girls’ basketball team. She was part of a successful season in her freshman year, followed by being the focal point of the team’s offense in her sophomore year as she led the team in scoring and rebounding. It was expected she would again be the team’s star player in her junior season, but in a twist she opted to transfer out of Heritage and play at La Conner High School. Adiya and her mother, Charlotte Jones, relocated to the small town of La Conner in order for her to attend the local high school.
Over the next several months Adiya would become part of a new community and lead a new group of teammates on the basketball court. In fact, Adiya excelled at La Conner, both on and off the court, resulting in her being named co-MVP of the Northwest 2B Basketball League and leading her team to a 3rd place finish in the 2B State Tournament. Adiya sat down for an interview with the See-Yaht-Sub to tell her story to her tribal membership.
When did you first start playing basketball?
“I honestly didn’t like basketball when I was younger. I was a long-time cheerleader and loved to dance. Then before 7th grade I hit a growth spurt and being taller now I decided to try out for the basketball team. It didn’t work out. I was cut from the team, but decided at that moment I was going to come back and try out again next year. I worked out that summer and trained with Tori Torrolova, the Tulalip Boys and Girls Club athletic director. She really worked with me on improving my game and teaching me the fundamentals.”
So you’ve only been playing organized basketball for a little over four years then?
“Yeah, looking back I’m still surprised that I’ve accomplished what I have, being that I haven’t played basketball nearly as long as other girls I know. It came to me naturally after working out with Tori and getting help from my coaches along the way.”
Why did you transfer out of Heritage H.S. and why did you choose La Conner H.S. to transfer to?
“I’ve always wanted to go to a much better school academically. I miss Heritage, but I feel like moving up here was huge for me because I have many more opportunities available to me now. Originally, before making the decision, I met with [La Conner basketball coach] Coach Novak to talk about how I’d fit in and what our goals would be. After meeting with him I knew La Conner is where I wanted to go.”
Was it difficult adjusting to a more traditional curriculum?
“The quality of education is a big difference maker. The curriculum at La Conner is completely different. At first it was really hard to adjust. The first week I didn’t think I was going to make it. There’s homework every night. Here, they are prepping us for college. It’s a really good school. I’ve learned so much during this school year. I’m really happy I made the change because I’m learning every day.”
At La Conner you mentioned they have curriculum that really challenges you and helps you to succeed. How so?
“They have TAs and parents that come in to help students get homework done or particularly tough assignments. For me, at one point I had a tutor come in and help me for like four weeks with homework and writing papers. When I first came to La Conner I didn’t even know how to type up a full paper and edit because we didn’t do that at Heritage. At La Conner they have people who are there to help you and to support you to make sure you are understanding and able to do the work. The first week I felt like this wouldn’t be the place for me because I wasn’t used to this kind of environment and the curriculum was completely different. I kind of felt dumb at first, but after a few weeks I become more comfortable because I was getting the help that I needed. The faculty and tutors helped me to adjust. They wanted me to succeed and that made all the difference.”
Do you feel you’re getting better prepared for college life?
“Yeah, because they really hold you accountable for your homework and deadlines for assignments. They want you to succeed and recognize when you need one-on-one attention to understand the curriculum.”
How does the style of play differ from what you were used to at Heritage?
“There’s a big difference. Coach Novak is really about structure and bases our game off of defense and set plays. The first week all we did was conditioning, other than that, the rest of our practices were focusing on our sets. At Heritage it was basically a few plays and half the time we didn’t run them. It was a huge change because back at Heritage it was mainly like, ‘get the ball to Adiya.’ Most of the plays were based off me, whereas here at La Conner it feels really good to have support and not be relied on to carry the offense all the time.”
How is the competition different playing in a larger league?
“Our league isn’t the best, but it’s an improvement competition-wise. We get more good competitive games, and for me I get to match up with girls who are my size or bigger with skill. At Heritage, district 1B, there weren’t that many girls bigger than me or taller than me so I wasn’t challenged in the ways that I am playing for La Conner. Being challenged makes me play better and improve my game.”
What was the adjustment period like playing with a brand new team?
“It helped a lot that Coach Novak had us all play fall league together before our high school regular season started. At first it was kind of hard to adjust, but we learned each other’s games pretty quick. Our point guard, Kamea Pino, was also a transfer student and new to the school like me. It helped me and her bond, both being the new players on the team. It really showed how we came together in a short amount of time by starting the season like we did.”
Before your first basketball game for La Conner, did you have any doubts about your skills in a different league?
“Yeah, I had doubts. I didn’t even know if I was going to be a starter. Coach Novak was really good about working with me to calm my nerves in the very beginning. “
But then you went on to be a starter and had a great season. You even averaged 16.3 points per game. Did that validate your skills as a basketball player?
“Oh yeah, fitting in as quickly as I did and taking on a good portion of our offensive sets really let me know that I could find a way to play in any league. Being able to score on better competition and then winning the Skagit Valley Herald Girls’ basketball player of the year was one of the best feelings.”
You guys got off to a really good start and in fact went undefeated during the regular season. At what point did you realize you had a real shot at winning the state title?
“I think it was towards the end of the regular season when we knew we’d be league champs. There was a week where we won our league and then came together, as a team to overcome some challenges at the district tournament. Really coming down to it, it was at that time that as a team we recognized we could win state.”
Going into the semi-finals at State your team was 24-0 and had a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter, but ending up losing the game. What happened?
“The easy answer is I fouled out with a few minutes to go. If I don’t foul out then I 100% believe we would have won that game. It was late in the game and I was exhausted from all the ball we’d been playing and I picked up some errant fouls that ended up being the difference. It was a really tough loss.”
But then your team bounced back in the 3rd place game, right? That’s still a nice accomplishment in your first year with La Conner to go 25-1 and place 3rd in the state tournament.
“Yeah, we were shocked after losing our first game of the season, but we came together and wanted to still finish the season strong. I was so mad at myself for fouling out in the semi-finals and was determined to end the season with a good game. In the end, whether we took 3rd place or not we were all happy as a team to be one of the top teams in the entire state.”
Now you have that extra motivation to come back even better next season and to hopefully win it all at state.
“Definitely. We have three returning starters and will be even hungrier to win the state championship. For me, it was my first experience playing on that level and now I know what it takes to take that next step. I’m all about basketball right now and focused to win a state championship. I’m not even playing a spring sport right now so that I can play spring league basketball. Plus, it’ll be my senior year, my last season of high school ball, so that’s even more added motivation for me to get better for myself and my teammates.”
Outside of school and basketball, how are you liking living in La Conner?
“It’s a very uplifting atmosphere and easy to get adjusted to. Over here there is definitely less drugs, so it’s good to be away from that type of environment. It’s so friendly here, like everyone is friendly and it’s very peaceful. I could walk to the store and people who I don’t even know recognize me as a basketball player and say ‘Congrats’ or ‘good job!’ and it feels really good to have people I don’t know acknowledge me like that.”
Who are your favorite basketball players to watch?
“On the professional level I don’t really watch WNBA, but in the NBA my favorite player is Kevin Durant. On the collegiate level my favorite player is Breanna Stewart at the University of Connecticut. I’ve been watching her the last couple years and try to copy some of her moves.”
I hear you plan on playing some ball in Europe during the summer. What’s that about?
“It’s such an exciting opportunity. I’ve been invited by the ACIS program to play basketball in Italy from July 15-21. I’ll be able to learn about the game on a whole new level and learn about that culture. I’m kind of scared to be in a new country, but I’m more excited for the opportunity to showcase my skills. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
What areas of your game are you going to focus on improving before the start of your senior season?
“Really working on better post moves is my main goal. I’ll be working on my conditioning too so that I’ll be in the best shape possible to be quicker on the court. Now, I know what it takes to the next level, to the championship game and I want to become a great player so that I’m prepared to take that next step.”
You averaged 16.3 points per game this past season as a junior. What is your goal to average in your senior season?
“My goal is to average at least 20 points per game. I think I can do it and being my senior year that would be a good goal to accomplish, along with winning a state title.”
Invited to play basketball in Italy, Adiya Jones needs community support
By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News
TULALIP – Former Heritage High School Lady Hawk and Tulalip tribal member Adiya Jones is joining the ranks of Tulalip athletes who are showcasing their skills internationally. Jones, a junior at La Connor High School, has her sights set on Italian basketball courts, where she hopes to join an elite group of players from across the globe, to compete and test their skills while representing their countries. The only thing that can stop her isn’t fear, it’s fundraising.
Jones was nominated to join Team USA, which consists of 12 other girls selected from across the United States, by a coach who saw her play.
To help her raise the $4,000 needed by March 2, Jones has created a fundly.com account, which works like Gofundme, where people can donate funds to her cause or benefit, in Jones’s case, her trip to Italy.
The money she raises will pay for hotels and meals as Jones travels around Italy with Team USA. To guarantee her slot on the team, Jones is using the same type of dedication she shows on the court to fundraise as much as she can before the deadline. In addition to her fundly.com account she has created a lottery board where you can purchase one or more squares for a fee. If you choose the wining square number you win half the money the board generated.
“I need to have half the money by a certain date. I plan to use some of my Christmas bonus money to help. The Tribe is also going to help with matching funds I raise,” said Jones, who is also planning a spaghetti feed with the help of her grandmother to raise more funds. Jones will also be participating in the annual Tulalip Tribes All Native Thanksgiving Basketball Tournament, held November 28-30, to test and sharpen her court skills and hopefully do a little fundraising.
“I am excited but also nervous. Once we started the board I started to get really nervous, like, this is it,” said Jones about her anxiousness to travel abroad for the first time by herself.
Jones, who has aspirations to play basketball at Washington State University, said, “I am looking forward to meeting new people. Just the experience of getting to play basketball with a whole new team, and learning some new moves and about the culture is going to be amazing.”