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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 3, 2001 - Issue 48


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 Holdsclaw Scores Points with Rocky Boy Fans


 by Peter Johnson Great Falls Tribune Staff Writer-October 30, 2001


Tribune photo by Peter Johnson

ROCKY BOY -- WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw wasted little time Monday touting her stellar record in a talk to more than 500 kids from several neighboring schools at Rocky Boy High School.
Instead, the University of Tennessee great and 1999 Women's National Basketball Association Rookie of the Year talked character and health.

In easy, conversational words, she stressed stuff like staying in school and finding your right, positive niche even if others tease you. She also talked about avoiding too much junk food and of learning to persist in a positive way even when things aren't going your way.

The personable 24-year-old made points with her young audience by admitting she had had to learn the hard way the lessons about keeping a proper diet and not getting down when she finally had a team that was only so-so.

Holdsclaw recalled that she had become frustrated about not being able to play in the Olympics because of a stress fracture. She quickly put on 12 pounds before she laid off too many burgers and fries and other junk food, she said.

After winning four high school championships and three college titles with the powerhouse University of Tennessee team, she has had trouble getting used to the Washington Mystics pro team that lost more games than it won last year.

"I really struggled with it and was always complaining," she said. "But we've got some great people on the team, and I realized I didn't want to bring us down with negative energy. The key is to be persistent. When things do get better, it will feel really sweet."

To succeed "in the game of life," Holdsclaw stressed, people often have to work hard at things they're not good at and don't enjoy.

She always liked math better than writing, but her mother made her write essays over and over to improve.

In basketball, she had to learn some moves and take more hits when a growth spurt allowed her to play underneath the basket as well as making long shots.

Watching proudly from the sidelines was June Holdsclaw who helped raise Chamique in a Queens, New York City, housing project.

"It's great to see Chamique give something back," said her grandmother, who always insisted that her children and grandchildren go to church each Sunday and do their homework before playing sports at the neighborhood park.

In fact, June Holdsclaw smilingly recalled straightening her granddaughter out in eighth grade when she showed off her No. 23 jersey.

"It's Michael Jordan's number," Chamique said proudly.

"No, it's not," June retorted. "It stands for the 23rd Psalm: 'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want' "

Holdsclaw also autographed some 700 Nike and WNBA T-shirts over 90 minutes and led an informal afternoon basketball clinic. She will repeat some of the same activities on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation today.

Holdsclaw and her grandmother were in Havre to visit the player's aunt by marriage, Stacey Gonsalez, and two young cousins, Thurman III, 6, and Kassola, 8. Gonsalez is the widow of Thurman Holdsclaw, a former Montana State University-Northern basketball star who was killed in a 1995 car accident. He was June Holdsclaw's son, about 11 years older than Chamique, and they were raised almost like brother and sister.

Holdsclaw said she learned to play basketball when her parents separated and she moved into a different section of Queens with her grandmother.

"It was almost as if I was raised by a village, with an aunt, an uncle, my mother and especially my grandmother helping," she said.

In a brief interview, Holdsclaw said she asked her corporate sponsor, Nike, to help arrange her inspirational tours of Indian reservations.

Before visiting the Rocky Boy's Reservation on a stop to see her family, Holdsclaw said she mistakenly thought Native Americans "all lived in tepees."

Now, she said she realizes many reservations have something in common with folks living in poor areas of inner cities.

"They're underprivileged, with lots of unemployment," she said. "I want to help the kids by giving them a positive message."

In a later question-and-answer with 100 girls' basketball players was in a more joking mood.

"I like R&B and hiphop," she said. "But sorry, I don't like any of that country music."

Even though she is 6-foot-2, four or five of her teammates are even taller, said Holdsclaw, whose name is of German derivation.

"The hardest thing about being me is that people see me get all passionate when I play basketball and assume I'm real outgoing," she said. "But I'm really kind of shy."

The girls identified with Holdsclaw when she said she does "all kinds of normal things. I like to shop, I love Play Station II and I'm a DVD fanatic, with a collection of more than 250 movies. And I'm wondering what guy I'm going to go out with next."

Adults and parents were equally impressed.

"It's always nice to have a high profile person come to your school and show the kids she cares about them," said Rocky Boy Principal Voyd St. Pierre.

School athletic director Mona Sunchild said a lot of the children could identify with Holdsclaw's message because many of them are raised by single parents or grandmothers or have other extended family arrangements.

Box Elder coach Shiloh Schwab said Holdsclaw's message of persistence would help children from impoverished reservation families stay in school. Schwab said.

"She was real positive and inspiring," said Rocky Boy sophomore Sheree Small, 15, a point guard. "My life is kind of like hers because my parents split up, too."

Her friend, Rocky Boy forward Allie Sunchild, 15, said she was excited "because I've watched Chamique play on TV all the time but never seen a star player in person."

J'Shonn McGuire, 17, a Box Elder High senior heading to the University of Montana next year, hopes Holdsclaw's talk will help.

"A lot of kids on the reservation think they can't make it and drop out of school," McGuire said. "She gave a good message to stay in school and make something of yourself."

Rocky Boy parent Paula Arocha was glad she brought a pick-up full of kids.

"Chamique gave an inspiring speech," she said. "She was brief and used words and stories that the kids could easily understand."

Although Holdsclaw readily admitted she knows more about breast cancer awareness than about diabetes, she intuitively gave good advice about the latter disease that heavily strikes Native Americans, said Shane Patacsil.

He's a representative of the Rocky Boy Health Center, which was screening both adults and children for diabetes at the event.

Holdsclaw's advice to stay physically active, get regular checkups and avoid fatty junk foods all are good tips for avoiding or minimizing the impacts of diabetes, he said.

     Maps by Travel

Chamique Holdsclaw

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