“We got run out of the gym the first time we played,” said Scanlon, a sophomore. “They played so fast, the defense was always a 2-3 zone and after a made basket, there was no inbounds pass; you just took the ball right from there. It seemed like everyone could shoot and there was a lot of talent out there.”
With their view of Native American reservation life limited to the sparse references in school textbooks, the pick-up game experience was one that Reaves and Scanlon could not fathom when Paul VI Coach Glenn Farello asked them to serve as counselors for the third annual Northern Cheyenne Basketball Clinic in August. But as they learned that night and thereafter during the three-day camp, being a teenager in the nation’s capital and a youth in one of the country’s native areas has its similarities.
“It’s different out there, but it’s also the same,” Scanlon said. “A 15-year-old kid out there is the same kid everywhere else in America. That was our common bond; not necessarily basketball, but that we were all kids who enjoyed doing the same things.”
Alick Dearie, who played and coached under Farello during his days at Eleanor Roosevelt, also gathered this when he first travelled to the reservation four years ago with Joe Kunkel, a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. The two were connected through a mutual friend as Kunkel searched for support in forming a program to heighten awareness on how architecture can positively impact the growth of reservations. Once Dearie, an architect, noticed all of the Air Jordan shoes and basketball shorts worn by the Northern Cheyenne kids, he and Kunkel began brainstorming a basketball camp as another way to connect with the community.
“There are not a lot of support mechanisms for tribal youth growing up, so they often turn to experimenting with drugs and alcohol, and suicide rates are incredibly high,” Kunkel said. “Basketball is a great outlet tool for tribal youth. You can see the fire in their eyes light up when they play.”
Upon his return home, Dearie called Farello about helping direct the basketball camp. Little did he know that each of the first two years would draw 100-plus kids, ranging from 6 to 18 years old, which opened the door for several of Farello’s assistant coaches, along with Reaves and Scanlon, to participate this summer.
“It was important for me to not only get some players to share their basketball expertise with kids their age, but also share in the culture and see life outside of their own limited scope of the D.C. area, where not much is said about the reservation community,” said Farello, who is working to bring some of the Northern Cheyenne youth to Paul VI’s basketball camp next year.