James Giago Davies: Schools reject Indian basketball legacy

The 39th annual Lakota Nation Invitational takes place in Rapid City, South Dakota, from December 16-19, 2015. Photo from LNI

Large school Lakota basketball sadly a thing of the past
By James Giago Davies

People on the reservation always knew they had great basketball players, but most of the large Wasicu schools had no Indian ball players, and before the days of television, never really got to see the Lakota brand of basketball.

The first truly outstanding large school Lakota ballplayer was Vince Whipple, Class of 1956, who starred for the Rapid City Cobblers.

From 1962 to 1986 Cobbler Head Coach Dave Strain would put a basketball product on the floor unique in South Dakota, most every squad boasting some of the best Lakota ballplayers to ever step onto a court: Marty Waukazoo, Steve Withorne, Rich Gerry, Lenny Dismounts, and Bob and Terry Cuny.

Lakota basketball standout Rich Gerry of the Rapid City Cobblers in 1969.

That was my first exposure to Lakota ballplayers, they were just kids from my North Rapid neighborhood, familiar to my eyes before they ever put on basketball uniforms, and watching the 1969 State Champion Cobbler team practice in the old Columbus Street gymnasium is my most cherished childhood basketball memory.

Over the past 30 years the face of Lakota basketball has changed. The big schools no longer boast a lineup of Indian ballplayers, especially disheartening in the case of Rapid City Central, which has willfully turned its back on that heritage and alienated much of the Rapid City Lakota community.

There was a time when a Cobbler letter jacket screamed Lakota excellence even when a Wasicu player was wearing it, and for me that time is not just history, I feel the connection, the loyalty, the spirit for Cobbler Red to this day, even though that reality passed unnoticed by a town that could never come to gracious terms with over ten thousand Indian neighbors, most living in and around North Rapid.

Read the rest of the story on the all new Native Sun News website: Large school Lakota basketball sadly a thing of the past

(James Giago Davies can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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