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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 5, 2003 - Issue 84


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Dugi, Justice and Curtis
Promoting Raw Basketball Talent at TC District

Photos and story by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer - TC District

When this school year is over, reservation high school basketball hopefuls will still be whispering three names. Dugi, Justice and Curtis.

Tuba City High has distinguished itself again this year by taking raw, local basketball talent and serving it up Warrior style through Devin Dugi, Michael Justice and Donnie Curtis.

Devin Dugi, a senior and member of the Navajo Nation has recently been selected All Arizona 1st Team by the Arizona Coaches Association and is a nominee for the McDonald's All American Team. He is also is rumored to be up for an additional award from the Arizona Republic.

Micheal Justice and Donnie CurtisMichael Justice, also a senior, was named Honorable Mention All Conference for the 3A North along with fellow teammate, Donnie Curtis, senior and member of the Navajo Nation, who was selected to the Honorable Mention Team for All Arizona by the Arizona Coaches Association.

TC Head Basketball Coach Earl Flaggs, who will be leaving Tuba City at the end of this school year has nothing but high hopes and fatherly-like praise for each his players. Flaggs said, "creating a profile and getting these kids exposed to college-level ball" was just a part of his job.

When Head Coach Flaggs first got to Tuba City, he said he was originally "nervous about all the REZ dirt courts, but once he saw local Tuba City talent play on a regulation court, he realized that kids out here, process their talent and skills differently than inner city kids. They can multitask with the best of them."

Flaggs also said that when he leaves Tuba City, he will go away happy since part of his success will have been to make his team and its players more publicly visible and "that to me, is the mark of a successful program. I wanted to put my stamp on the quality of players here in Tuba City and this has been one of the true highlights of my time here."

Dugi, Justice and Curtis could only echo their coach's aspirations and credit Flaggs for their personal basketball success.

Devin DugiDevin Dugi, who at 6'4", is the most heavily sought after basketball commodity at Tuba City High, is mulling over his options for college. At press time he had not made a final choice of his present scholarship offers as he was planning on taking some time during the upcoming spring break to look at another two colleges.

When asked how big an honor and all this attention has been for him, Dugi said,

"It has been a bit overwhelming but Coach Flaggs and my Dad have been great in advising me in long term considerations for my college career. One of the things I learned this year was to distribute to my teammates and to create shots for myself. As for the McDonald's nomination, it was really an honor and fun to be recognized with names before me, like Ron James, Kobe, Shaq and legend, Michael Jordan. This has motivated me to work harder. While I need to gain some weight for more upper body strength, I know with some work, I can get better."

Flaggs felt that Dugi had a very special season and said, "Devin reminds me a lot of Jamal Wilkes from the old Laker championship teams. Smooth, unlimited range and the ability to score 32 points, have 12-13 rebounds, four or five steals, and two or three blocks.

Dugi has not had very many off games in the past two years. This season he backed the Warriors club with 23.5 points and contributed 8.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

Michael Justice, 6'1", senior at Tuba City High also hasn't made final plans after graduating high school. He is still considering whether he will take a couple of years off to do LDS mission work or just dive right into college. Justice has four scholarship offers chasing him.

Justice is a local reservation basketball talent whose prior history in development was playing PeeWee basketball and scrimmaging at home in Tuba City with back to back State Championship players, like Lance and Lavar Martin, Lloyd Billy, Josh Allen and James Justice, his older brother.

Justice credits his Dad, Larry Justice and Coach Flaggs for his success. "Even though my Dad enjoys and supports me in my basketball career, he reminds me that life is more than that. I am lucky to have 6 siblings, a great Mom and a family life that is preparing me for long term success. Coach Flaggs has just added another part of that whole. It has been exciting to be a part of Tuba City's basketball history."

Justice was also asked who he admired in the professional leagues, "I like Kobe Bryant. I have watched several ESPN specials on his style and see how hard he works. I would like to apply that principle of hard work to everything I do in life."

Justice's Dad, Larry, in a brief telephone interview said about his son, "What I admire about Michael's basketball skill, is that in his four years of high school he has gone to two State Championships and made the Final Four. When I saw him make this year's final shot at Ganado that took the Warriors over the top to go again, that was pretty exciting. But even more, I like to see how he has taken his skills past the basketball court and see his teammates as more than that. They are his best friends and their camaraderie goes beyond the court. They grew up together and they really see past the tribal and cultural barriers."

Donnie Curtis, 6'3", senior and member of the Navajo Nation has been selected to the Honorable Mention Team for All Arizona by the Arizona Coaches Association.

When interviewing Curtis, you can't miss the humility and thoughtful reflectful that he exudes. Curtis is one of nine siblings, seven sisters and one brother. His Mom, Coach Flaggs, and his uncle Marvin Hardy have been the biggest influences in his basketball career.

Curtis mentions that his Dad left his family when he was really young, and without that support, he didn't really get into basketball until his Junior year when Coach Flaggs saw him play.

Coach Flaggs, "I saw Donnie's early talent and couldn't believe that no-one had jumped on it yet. He was hustling and hitting free throws with ease. While some people were telling me that he couldn't play, I could tell that he had something special. DC was blasting most of the other players off the court. So the very first game, I told him, You're starting."

Curtis definitely has his own style. When asked what kind of practice regimen he has, Curtis said, "I don't practice at home. I come to school and play pick-up b-ball. Also when you go to the community courts, there are a lot of local grownup men who have played in prior TC championship games and they have helped me a lot. They show you what kind of mistakes you are making and try to help you with your game. Also Coach Flaggs really believes in me. This has made me want to try harder."

Curtis has several college offers on his plate and is already interested in pursuing a career in sports medicine. He admires NBA star, Shaquille O'Neal for his "dominance on the court." Curtis said, "I like that Shaq has that dominant ability and that is what I want for myself, to dominate on the court. I also like Rasheed Wallace's humor, he can trash talk with the best of them, and even though I know I have career choices ahead of me that have to be taken seriously, I also have to remember to have some fun too."

Curtis has a lot of weight on his shoulders serving as a role model to not just area students but to his own brother and sisters as well. He hopes that his own family members "remember to have a dream and just keep going for it. Don't back down from it for anything. It's possible."

His most exciting game was 3A North Regionals. "It felt really good to win, because no-one thought we would make it. But our team believed in ourselves and when we are together all the outside distractions just go away. We're more than a team, we're like a family. "

A big question for all three of these players is whether they will participate in the "Tour of Legends" tournament set for April, which has three games played in New Mexico and three in Arizona.

Justice said, " If I am eligible, I definitely want to play. But right now, I'm sitting on top of a knee injury, since I am playing baseball and how quickly it heals will determine my eligibility."

Curtis replied, "I got a call from the Chinle Coach today and I told him, definitely. I want to play."

Dugi said he was planning on making a final selection of a college by the end of next week so that once he did, it would really be up to the college he signs with to make that decision but that he hopes that they allow him to play in that final high school tournament.

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