By Sam Herder
Journal Sports Editor
When the weather is cooperating in the summer, fall and spring, it's almost impossible to find an empty gymnasium or outdoor basketball court on the Fort Totten Reservation.
By Sam Herder
Journal Sports Editor
When the weather is cooperating in the summer, fall and spring, it’s almost impossible to find an empty gymnasium or outdoor basketball court on the Fort Totten Reservation.
Basketball is what keeps the kids busy in the community. And when the younger kids are playing, they often try to replicate what their basketball heros do on the court. But they’re not using the names of NBA or college players. They say things like “I want to shoot like Jason Feather” or “I want to dunk like Tronis McKay” or “I want to run the show like Steve Redfox.”
Those are the names on the Four Winds-Minnewaukan boys basketball roster.
The Indians have become the biggest show in town. They’re the team everyone wants to be on. It’s gotten to the point where Four Winds-Minnewaukan has had to have tryouts and make cuts to determine its varsity roster, a scenario unheard of in Class B basketball.
But such is life for a program that’s placed second in the state tournament in 2013 and 2015. The Indians return to the Class B Tournament this weekend in Minot as the No. 1 seed with a 23-1 record.
Rick Smith is in his 17th year of guiding the program. Before Minnewaukan formed the co-op, Four Winds made the state tournament in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
“It’s the success we’ve had and the love of the game out here in the Fort Totten area,” Smith said. “There’s not a gym you go to or outdoor court now that it’s nice that’s not being used. You add the success we’ve had to that, and you see the little kids that see that. We’re traveling with the younger teams constantly trying to keep our program strong. Everybody wants to be a part of that.”
Growing up, Four Winds-Minnewaukan is the team every kid dreams of playing for. Basketball consumes the community.
“It’s pretty much the only thing to do around here,” senior guard Jason Feather said. “Everyone grows up playing basketball. Everyone wants to play for this team because it’s a good program and we’re usually a winning team. Everyone wants to win.”
The popularity of the team leads to tough decisions for Smith’s coaching staff. At the beginning of this season, the Indians had to form a 30-man roster from 52 players trying out.
“When it’s something successful, you want to be a part of that,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, some kids can’t. You just can’t play that many kids. Class A schools don’t do that. It’s not easy to tell a kid they can’t play basketball, but it’s something we have to do. It’s our third year of doing that. It doesn’t get easier and easier, but we’re getting used to that now and the kids realize they have to try out to make this team.”
Fort Totten and Minnewaukan have a combined population of about 2,000 people. On a winter night, the Four Winds High School is the place to be when the Indians are in action.
When it comes to tournament time, the fan base packs one side of the Sports Center, including the second level bleachers.
“I like the fan support here,” junior guard Steve Redfox said. “We definitely like to give them a good show.”
The Four Winds-Minnewaukan varsity teams have provided a positive influence on the reservation. The challenge of making the team has grown over the years, making the young kids spend that much more time on the playground.
“I think our kids that are playing become role models for the younger ones,” Smith said. “The younger kids see that and the type of games we play in, the crowds we bring in, the state tournament appearances and regional championship games, they’re just unbelievably out-of-control with fans and the great atmosphere. The kids see that and they want to be a part of that.”