Four Winds/Minnewaukan continues to show basketball prowess, winning culture during summer

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

FORT TOTTEN – Late spring and early summer might have signified the end of the 2021-22 high school basketball season, but not for the Four Winds/Minnewaukan Indians and Lady Indians. 

If anything, summer has allowed each program to catch a quick breath in anticipation of practice camps and the looming fall semester. 

However, a trio of Four Winds/Minnewaukan players and a head coach had the opportunity to show their expertise on the court in early July (11-12). Consider it one final hurrah to signify the end of the 2021-22 campaign. 

Ezura Rainbow, Jayden Yankton, Jacolby Pearson and Rick Smith had the opportunity to participate in the North Dakota Lions All-Star Basketball Series in Bismarck and Fargo. Rainbow and the Class B girls swept their doubleheader against Class A (72-65 and 90-67), while Class B boys claimed a series split against their Class A counterpart (118-108 loss and 95-94 win). All-Star rosters were announced on April 14. 

Wins and losses hold merit, and a slew of All-Star games certainly do not go against the grain. However, to Four Winds/Minnewaukan, the opportunity to participate in the endeavor (and with four total participants, at that) has helped illustrate each program’s drive to build an influential culture catered toward eventual prowess at the state level. 

Four Winds/Minnewaukan Boys' Basketball head coach Rick Smith (far left) participated in the ND Lions All-Star Basketball Series in early July (11-12). Jacolby Pearson, Jayden Yankton and Ezura Rainbow (left to right) also participated.

You wouldn’t have to tell Smith. After all, as the boys’ basketball head coach, Smith has helped create such a winning atmosphere. A pair of boys’ basketball state championships over the last seven years (2015-16 and 2021-22) certainly helps paint the picture. 

From Smith’s time as an ND Lions coach (2022 was his fifth time participating), he has recognized even more how important it is for more experienced players to set an example for those behind them.  

“Well, young kids see the older kids,” Smith said. “I mean, that’s just the way it goes anywhere. Younger kids see the programs being successful. They want to be that someday. They want to be a Jayden Yankton. They want to be a Jacolby Pearson. The young ladies want to be an Ezura Rainbow and play in their shoes someday and be a part of that.” 

To Smith, hard work breeds success. This hard work then allows more exclusive opportunities to open up for those that put in the grind. 

“It just shows that between Sean [Gourd] and his staff and me and my staff and the high school staff and all the way down that we are working hard,” Smith said. “[We] are working very hard to be successful, and when you get kids on that Lions All-Star Team like we have had, it shows that coaches see your kids being successful. So, it just means that we, as a school and we as a coaching staff, both boys and girls, have put in all the hard work we have put in is paying off. Seeing one or kids make it…only 12 get chosen. It’s pretty special.” 

Although Gourd – Four Winds/Minnewaukan’s girls’ basketball head coach – has yet to net his team a state championship, the work has still been recognizable. 

Rainbow’s involvement in the ND Lions’ All-Star games made the Bismarck State commit the third Lady Indian under Gourd to participate in the event and sixth overall in program history. 

“I think it’s a huge honor for Ezura and our previous girls that we’ve had on the team,” Gourd said. “The boys basically have one on every year, I think, but for the girls’ side of things, it just shows where the program is going over the past six, seven, eight years.” 

Regardless of the time of year, Four Winds/Minnewaukan has helped create a consistent culture that, to Smith, all revolves back to hard work. 

Such work will, in turn, lead to more exposure. As will a winning culture, 

“If you are not getting any publicity from your older kids and your programs are not successful, it is hard for the younger ones to buy into it,” Smith said. “Both programs have been successful for the past few years, and it’s making the younger ones buy into that, and also because they see that, and they see the gyms packed. They see the fun games that they are playing in, and they want to be a part of that also.” 

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.