By Dan Ninham
The wave of top level Minnesota Section 8 basketball talent is continuing to rise at Cass Lake-Bena High School. One of the team leaders is making potential adversity into his strength.
LeRoy Staples Fairbanks IV, 16, is from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and his clan is Makwa (Bear). He is a junior at Cass Lake-Bena HS. His parents are LeRoy Staples-Fairbanks III and Becky Fairbanks.
LeRoy’s credentials include being a gold medalist for Team Minnesota 14U at the 2017 North American Indian Games. He was to play for the 16U team this past summer but Covid-19 arrived.
“I have been playing varsity basketball since eighth grade,” said LeRoy. “In eighth grade in 2018 we made it to state and took fourth place. We made it to the section championship the last three years. We had a great chance to make it back to state this past year but the season got cancelled.”
LeRoy played AAU ball with the WI Playmakers North program. “Last summer I was recognized by Prep Hoops Minnesota as the Top Preseason small forward in my section and top Breakout Player candidate for Section 8A,” said LeRoy. “I was also named Prep Hoops Big Jump Stock Riser for the 16U AAU season.”
“We are a basketball family, so it was naturally expected for LeRoy IV to pick up a basketball,” said dad LeRoy Staples Fairbanks III. “He grew up watching Cass Lake-Bena’s run of state tournaments, and traveled the region watching his uncle Brady play ball during his college career.”
Leech Lake Tribal College Head Men’s basketball coach and uncle Brady Fairbanks talked about his nephew: “LeRoy always had love for the game and always worked extremely hard. Each year he had to prove himself and each year he’s improved his game.”
“Last summer Playmakers North had 18 teams for boys and girls and I’d give my most improved award to LeRoy,” said Phil Roe, Playmakers North program director. “In one year LeRoy dramatically got stronger taking it to the basket, shooting the ball and making the right play at the right time. He works extremely hard and it shows.”
“I prepare myself to perform physically … by keeping my blood sugars level and staying good for long and short term,” said LeRoy.
“Something most people don’t know about me is that I have Type 1 diabetes,” said LeRoy. “I’m not shy or ashamed of it but I just don’t tell a lot of people. This could be the first time I have said something publicly about it. I was diagnosed two years ago, and I wear a full time Dexcom blood sugar monitor in my arm that I use to keep track of my blood sugar numbers. I take insulin through a shot every time I eat or need to correct. I do this because my pancreas no longer produces insulin in my body so I have to do it for myself. It has been a huge learning experience and lifestyle change, living with diabetes.”
“Two years ago we learned that LeRoy was a Type 1 diabetic, and was a huge shock to our family,” said dad LeRoy III. “We had to learn the differences between relatives we knew with Type 2 and now how to live with Type 1. Since the day we found out, LeRoy IV has been awesome about how he deals with it.”
“My mother is probably like the best diabetic mother in the world and she helps out so much with this it’s crazy,” said LeRoy.
“LeRoy was cool, calm and collective about the whole situation,” said mom Becky Fairbanks. “Still to this day he never gets upset or too emotional about his situation, he just does what he has to do to continue to live a healthy life. I believe that these traits show how he is a great leader at such a young age to be in control of this disease and not letting this disease control his life.”
“I have been watching him since he was a little bitty guy, playing the sports he loves so much,” said Becky. “On the court, I watch how he leads the team with playing in an unselfish manner.”