Team Mnisota 19U and 16U boys’ basketball earn silver medals

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Team Mnisota 16U boys’ were silver medalists at the 2023 North American Indigenous Games in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Back row: Andrew Roy, August Peltier, Alonzo Reyes, Hassani Bruton, Ethan Buckholtz, Kingsley Whitebird, Tate Boswell, Ryan Kingbird, Muckwa Roberts Jr., and Amerin Chamberlain. Front row: Malakai Crow and William Moose, Jr. (Photo by E. Jourdain.)

By Dan Ninham

Team Mnisota 16U boys were silver medalists at the 2023 North American Indigenous Games in Halifax, Nova Scotia. David Olson-Iverson was the head coach for the basketball team. During the past four seasons, he was also the successful Deer River HS Warriors head boys’ basketball coach. “Our team played the whole tournament with just six guys,” said David Olson-Iverson. “We made it all the way to the gold medal game versus Alberta. Throughout the whole tournament, the boys gave everything they had, and then some more.”

The first game versus Team British Columbia was close until the second half, when the team surged to take a 27 point lead with five minutes to go.

“We beat Team Manitoba after that and Team Colorado to finish 3-0 in pool play taking the number one seed in our pool,” added Olson-Iverson.

The team then beat Team Haudenosaunee in the quarter finals of the tournament. Next they played the tournament favorite Team Ontario and beat them. They then played Team Alberta and the players were getting tired.

“Fatigue finally caught up with us as we started out slow and were down by almost 20 in the first half,” said Olson-Iverson. “We battled back to put us within 10 at half time. We kept momentum by putting on a classic 23 half court trap which ended up getting us a one point lead with 4:50 to go in the fourth quarter.”

“Team Alberta went on a quick 5-0 run after a timeout and Charlie Vandeberg fouled out, leaving us with five exhausted players in the final minutes of the gold medal game. The five battled right to the end but ended up losing by double figures,” added Olson-Iverson.
The team roster for the 19U boys’ basketball team included Gerald Kingbird, Jr. (Red Lake Ojibwe), Jack Brown III (Red Lake Ojibwe), Cale Jackson (Leech Lake Ojibwe), Charlie Vandeberg (Ho-Chunk), Laiten Goodthunder (Lower Sioux Dakota) Patrick Crow III (Oglala Sioux), David Olson, Coach at Deer River High School, and Pete Nez (Navajo), Assistant Coach at Redwood Valley High School.

“We gained fans from all across Turtle Island with our three point shooting, unselfish play, and sportsmanship,” said Olson-Iverson.

Nez was named the Minnesota Assistant Coach of the Year this past season as the assistant basketball coach at Redwood Valley High School. Nez talked about the team play for short-handed but strong hearted Team Mnisota, “I was very impressed with how well the kids played together for just meeting the day before pool play started. I liked how the boys were very coachable and how respectful they were. They played hard and had to learn the FIBA rules on the fly. Head Coach Dave and I meshed well and we trusted each other’s decisions.”

“We beat some guys that were bigger than us. I like how all the boys were not selfish. They bought into a role each game. Very fun bunch to watch and coach,” added Nez.
Chris Jourdain, assistant coach for the Team Mnisota 16U boys’ basketball team, was also the chef de mission for Team Mnisota.

“My highlights were the way the team responded to the messages I had of responding to adversity and keeping the positive energy, not getting mad at refs calls, or a mistake,” said Chris Jourdain. “In the semifinals we were up 13 at the half, lost 12 of them points at the end of the third quarter.”

“I reminded them again of the need for positive energy and to let their skills talk, not their mouths. They responded with a 40 point fourth quarter, which are 10 minutes in length and advanced to the gold medal game,” added Jourdain.

“I’ve learned much of this game is in between the ears, sometime even more than between the lines,” said Jourdain. “It was a night and day comparison in the energy and the outcome.”

“This team was loaded,” said Jourdain. “I felt we could make a run at a gold medal, but also knew we would be facing the best of the best. I could say so much about all of them, it was fun to be on the bench with them and see them having fun off the court.”

Team Mnisota just got off the plane on their way home when they found out the 2027 North American Indigenous Games were awarded to Calgary, Saskatchewan, Canada. As the eagle flies that’s 970 miles less from Red Lake than going 1975 miles to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The athletes and coaches know they have to prepare now for the future.

For more info, see Naig2023.com.