James Jourdain: Rising Star with Red Lake Nation College Basketball

James Jourdain, a member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe, is one of the rising stars of the Red Lake Nation College Migizi men’s basketball program. He is averaging 26 points per game. (Photo courtesy of Mikah Whitecloud.)

By Dan Ninham

The Red Lake Nation College Migizi started a men’s basketball program last fall of 2021. A women’s basketball program will be starting next fall. There is an 11 game schedule in January and February with plans to compete at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) post season tournament in New Town, ND the first weekend in March.

One of the rising stars is James Jourdain, 25, and a member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe. He is averaging 26 points per game.

“I graduated from Red Lake High School in 2015,” said Jourdain. “I’m in my freshman year at the Red Lake Nation College. My goals for college are to finish my two year degree at Red Lake and then transfer to Bemidji State University. I am currently unsure of what I want to major in at this time.”

“For my main athletic accomplishments I focused a lot on basketball but also I enjoyed playing baseball,” said Jourdain. “During my four years of high school our team, the Red Lake Warriors, made it to the Minnesota State High School tournament two times, both times coming up short in the first game.”

“My indigenous core value from the Seven Grandfather Teachings is courage, because being an athlete takes a lot of it,” said Jourdain. “There will be times during your life where you want to quit and that’s where you have to find the courage to just keep going and finish what you started. It took courage to get me to decide to go to college at my age. I also decided to attend college when the Red Lake Nation College reintroduced a men’s basketball program.”

“One of my first mentors to introduce me to basketball was Chris Jourdain,” said Jourdain. “Chris was my basketball coach from second to eighth grade starting with the basics in elementary and coaching me in junior high. In that time span he helped me achieve being a student athlete and to value the game of basketball. I played basketball for Chris during the school year and also in various tournaments.”

“Jimmy started with me in my very first year of coaching, he was in third grade,” said Red Lake youth basketball coach Chris Jourdain. “We practiced hard for a couple of years, and I told them they could get really good as players in the future if they worked hard at it.”
“He came from a home with his grandparents who offered lots of support for this team, they’d host sleepovers before the tournament and sometimes even after. They started providing healthy snacks for the boys, and these boys did really well for some youngsters and enjoyed much success from an early age,” added Jourdain.

The young Warriors basketball teams played throughout the state and Coach Chris Jourdain would often be the leader with the travel teams.

“I recall in their sixth grade we played in over 60 games that year,” said Jourdain. “They were fun to watch, we played good defense and could really shoot well. Jimmy wasn’t afraid to get on the floor and was a very good defender.”

“I recall this time in a championship game where he could’ve won the game for his team at the line at the very end of the game but he didn’t connect on both. I told him that he could either go on to become a great free throw shooter if he worked on them, or get stuck on that moment, he was only in sixth grade. He went on to be a pretty good free throw shooter,” added Jourdain.

Coach Chris enjoyed coaching that group up until 8th grade, and then watching that group as they moved on up the ranks of the program into high school.

“They got to accomplish what they set out to do as youngsters in the kindergarten gym and make it to the state tournament,” added Jourdain.

“My second mentor that helped me be a student athlete is Roger White. Roger coached me during my four years of high school basketball and during those years he always told us that we are students first then athletes second.”

“That is something that has stuck with me to this day as I am now a student athlete for the Red Lake Nation College,” added Jourdain.