Fort Lewis College has a rich tradition in supporting Native American students, and that commitment has been recognized for the past three years by the Nike N7 Fund.
Tonight, the FLC women’s basketball team will host a Nike N7 game for the third consecutive year. This year’s game will come at 5:30 p.m. against Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference foe New Mexico Highlands before the men play Northern New Mexico.
Started in 2009, the Nike N7 Fund goes to support sports programs in Native American and Aboriginal communities. Games are celebrated during Native American Heritage Month. The fund has awarded more than $7.5 million in grants to communities and organizations since 2009, including $1.9 million last year alone.
In 2018, 11 colleges were picked to participate in N7 games, and this year, FLC is one of 15 schools to participate again. FLC will break out its special turquoise jerseys to honor the occasion. The Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Color Guards will present the flag, and the national anthem will be sung in Navajo. Wendell Bruce Valdez, a Southern Ute Tribal Council member, also will give a blessing before the women’s game. There will also be halftime performances from the Southern Ute Singers.
“It’s huge. Obviously, we recruit student-athletes who are Native American,” FLC head coach Orlando Griego said. “Obviously, the N7 game is really big in this area. We understand the significance of basketball with Native youth. It’s an honor for us to host a game like this and be one of a very select few in the nation to host the N7 game.”
This year’s FLC team has five Native American players: Marieka Dent of Nevada, Southern Paiute; Ignacio’s Hilda Garcia, Diné Navajo; Ilyssa Galindo of Arizona, Tohono O’oodham; Helen Gover of Lafayette, Navajo, Pawnee and Coctaw; and Kayla Herrera-Flores of New Mexico, Turtle Mountain Chippewa.
“With their families, for their tribe, for their clan, it’s a big honor for our Native American student-athletes to get mentioned and feel appreciated and go out there and play and do something most of our players have set their mind to since they were kids,” Griego said. “Friday, four of our five players will take the floor at once. It’s something we are going to honor. If it was all five, if they all were healthy, that would be awesome, but four of the five will definitely get in together.”
Fort Lewis College is one of 11 schools selected this year to play in the Nike N7 Games! The N7 Fund has award over $7.5 million in grants to Native American and Aboriginal communities/organizations since 2009! The N7 games tip at 5:30/7:30 p.m. Friday inside Whalen! #DaretoRise pic.twitter.com/PCvpEhnKJm— Fort Lewis Skyhawks (@FLCSkyhawks) November 12, 2019
FLC (1-1) has only one game this week and hopes to be full strength for the first time this season. The Skyhawks beat Western New Mexico in last weekend’s season opener before a loss a day later to Eastern New Mexico. In the opener, junior forward Jordan Carter was out with an illness, and she suffered the affects of the illness when she returned in limited minutes a day later. Herrera-Flores missed the loss to Eastern New Mexico for personal reasons.
“We had a really good week of practice,” Griego said. “Carter is feeling good and strength close to where it was. Kayla is back providing a lot of leadership in practice. We are close to running on all cylinders. I think we’re gonna do really well this weekend.”
New Mexico Highlands (0-3) lost by double digits to Eastern New Mexico and Western New Mexico last weekend in Durango and then fell 98-71 to Texas A&M International University. The Cowgirls have scored 62.3 points per game and given up 81.7. Jordyn Lewis, a transfer from Fort Lewis, is the team’s leading scorer at 19.3 points per game. She has shot 41.3% from the field. Ashley Antone has averaged 15 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, while Desiree Forster has averaged 11.7 points per game.
“They play extremely hard,” Griego said. “They shoot 3s at a high percentage. Depth-wise, it didn’t look like they had too many, but the girls who play do play a lot of minutes and work hard.”
FLC has been led by Durango High alumna and Colorado Mesa transfer Katrina Chandler, as the point guard has averaged 14 points. 3.5 assists and three rebounds per game. Freshman Jordan Vasquez out of Farmington has averaged 8.5 points and five rebounds per game, while Herrera-Flores scored eight points and had six rebounds in the win against Western New Mexico.
Griego hopes to get a better look at his rotation during a special night for the Skyhawks.
“Both of our schools recruit Native American athletes, and I’m assuming families from both will come,” Griego said. “It’s always a nice game, and we will do our best to celebrate and think the community will rally around once again to celebrate it.”