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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 31, 2003 - Issue 88


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Hoop Dreams

by Matt Ross Indian Country Today
credits: LeAnn Montes. (Photo courtesy University of Montana.)
LeAnn Montes. (Photo courtesy University of Montana.)With graduation day approaching for the country's colleges and universities, three Native student-athletes from Montana are preparing to say goodbye to their campuses and embark on other endeavors.

Pete Conway from Billings, LeAnn Montes of the Rocky Boy Reservation and Alan Spoonhunter of Browning have completed, or will complete, their bachelor's degrees in business or business administration. In addition to their similar studies, coincidentally, they competed for their respective university basketball teams as guards.

Pete Conway
Awarded the honor of being the team's captain, Pete Conway earned that position after his four years at Montana State University where he developed a reputation for his reliability.

Yes, Conway was a consistent shooter becoming the 27th Bobcat to register more than 1,000 points (1,099) and finished second all-time for MSU with three-pointers made, 188, by compiling a 43 percent success rate from behind the arc. But it was his presence both on and off the court that earned the respect from the coaching staff and his teammates.

"He was low-maintenance," 13-year head coach Mick Durham said about his captain. "Pete was a leader, always on time, dependable and did everything right."

There certainly was pressure on Conway, if only because he was just one of five returning players this season for a team that went 20-10 in 2001-02. This season, while it was Conway's strongest averaging 14.3 points per game as the starting shooting guard, the Cats slipped to 11-16.

Maintaining basketball and scholastic responsibilities wasn't always easy, especially when the major is business management. Conway though was named to the all-academic team of the Big Sky Conference for the last three years.

"You've got classes all day and basketball until 5 or 6 p.m., you have to make time in the evening to hit the books," he said about the discipline needed when being a student-athlete. "It's hard for a lot of people to make the adjustment."

He was also aware that when he put on the uniform, besides representing Montana State, he was representing an ethnicity, right or wrong.

"There are so few of us, so if anyone slips up, the media makes a big deal of it because we're in the spotlight," Conway said.

Not quite finished with hoops, Conway hopes to continue playing overseas and will attend a few summer camps throughout the country in the hopes of attracting the attention of an agent or European scout.

"I'm not looking at basketball as a career but I'd give it a try for a couple of years. Otherwise, I have something to fall back on."

LeAnn Montes
A back-up point guard with the University of Montana, LeAnn Montes never posted flashy statistics when she averaged 15 minutes per game. But then few females receive athletic scholarships after becoming a mother.

Now 22, Montes juggled her team responsibilities with the Grizzlies the past four years along with her bachelor's of Business Administration degree and her five-year-old daughter Dominique. LeAnn also got married to her husband Joel before her junior year.

"You really have to be self-motivated and I kept a lot of lists as to what I needed to do," Montes said about how she kept up her daily routine.

Graduating with a B-average, Montes recently received an achievement award from the school's Diversity Advisory Council because of her involvement with five other clubs on campus. That included community service when she gave speeches on reservations and to a group of single moms in Missoula.

"I told them they can go to college if they want to because a lot of single moms will look to someone else (another mom) for hope," Montes said.

She credits her sister Javon with helping care for Dominique, even though Javon also attends Montana.

"My sister has twins and she doesn't play basketball. But her writing has gotten her scholarships each semester to cover her expenses," said Montes, citing her sibling as an example of other opportunities for subsidized education for non-athletes.

Montes did play in all 30 games this season for the 20-10 Grizzlies, averaging three points and three assists per contest. She was fifth on the team in three-point shooting, 18/66, second on the squad with 96 assists and possessed an acceptable 2:1 ratio in assists to turnovers. Her fondest memory, besides the closeness of her teammates, was Senior Night when the Grizzlies came back from 12 down to beat Northern Arizona by a dozen after Montes capped off a 15-point run in three minutes with a three-pointer to give her team the lead.

"All the friends on the team, because we were so close and together 365 days a year, I'll remember them forever."

Organized basketball will come to a close though for Montes as she and her husband will attend graduate school at the University of New Mexico where they will both study law in the fall.

Alan Spoonhunter
Too much partying in his teenage years required a move out of the state and then the country for Alan Spoonhunter to settle down.

Living life hard for five years before attending post-secondary schooling, Spoonhunter, 27, attended the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck where he obtained an Information Technology diploma during his two years. He also rediscovered his game as he was named an All-American for Division-two junior colleges and had the privilege of having his number retired by the school.

Not quite content and wishing to play more, he spurned offers to play NCAA Division-two and looked at Canadian universities that were closer to northern Montana. Choosing the University of Lethbridge, Spoonhunter completed his second year, and athletic eligibility, this season averaging more than 20 points per game, the fourth-highest in the Canada West division, and earned second-team all-star accolades.

"When I played in North Dakota, my parents only saw two or three games. This way people can watch me and not just hear the stories," Spoonhunter said about the main reason he chose the campus in southern Alberta, only 90 minutes from Browning.

For two decades, Spoonhunter has been chasing a ball and says that with his competitive days finished, it will be nice to be just a student. He has one more year remaining towards his management degree that will lead him to a potential career in chartered accountancy.

As an older student, he can appreciate the opportunity basketball has given him academically and can reflect upon where he has come from.

"I sometimes just laugh because I can watch them (other students) make the same mistakes I did when I was their age," he said referring to teammates almost a decade younger than he.

The love of the game remains though and there have been some offers by the U of L coaching staff to include him on next year's team in a small administrative and coaching role. Nothing is definite yet but Spoonhunter has given it a lot of thought.

"That will help with the basketball," he said with a laugh, referring to previous problems he has kicked.

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