ESPN: 'Rez ball' a source of pride in Indian Country

"It's one of the best times of the year right now on many Native American reservations around the country. Why? Because it's officially basketball season. And while watching college and pro hoops is hugely popular, getting out and playing their own style called "rezball" is a source of pride for tons of kids who live on reservations.

The nickname is short for reservation ball, and the game is best known for its quick pace and relentless aggressiveness. While high school teams on many reservations often play a blended style of traditional basketball and rezball during the season as they vie to make and win state tournaments, these squads often feature some of the best local rezballers.

But no matter the season, rezball games are taking place at indoor gyms, on outdoor courts or wherever someone has put up a hoop.

"There's not much to do on the rez other than play basketball," says Brice Hornbeck, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe in South Dakota who was an All-Star for Little Wound High School on the Pine Ridge reservation and now plays basketball at North Dakota's University of Mary.

Josie Balentine, who played for the Seminole tribe's club team on Florida's Big Cypress reservation, agrees. "It's the only fun thing to do around here," he says.

The game has a rep for being super-fun to watch, too. The rules are the same as in traditional basketball, but the tempo is fast-forward at all times: Players have mind-boggling stamina and the game is a contest of transitions, presses, traps, daring steals and crafty ball-handling. On the best rezball teams, every player is capable of being a shooting threat, making acrobatic drives to the basket and taking tough charges to steal the opposing team's momentum.

It's no wonder crowds pack gyms to sit on the edge of their seats and watch the best squads square off. "People come out in droves -- the old, the young. When there's a little rivalry, everybody just loves it," says Dave Archambault, former head coach of the Lakota Regulators club team in South Dakota."

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'Rezballers' hold nothing back on the court (ESPN RISE 11/20)

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