Local players mentor Native American youth at basketball clinic

Submitted photos

Several local high school and college basketball players gave back to their community over the weekend, serving as mentors at a basketball clinic for local Native American youth.

The clinic, which was organized by the Da’Luk Youth Program, was held at the Bear River Recreation Center and was free of charge, with 60 kids aged 8-17 signing up.

“It was a great event,” clinic organizer Vincent Feliz said. “It was a beautiful sense of community. We had grandparents and parents hanging out and watching the kids all day.”

The clinic was held as part of the Da’Luk Youth Program’s ongoing campaign to promote wellness and mental health among local Native American youth, and is one of several clinics planned for this year.

And, according to Feliz, a basketball clinic was just an obvious choice here on the North Coast.

“Our tribal youth in our area, they love basketball,” he said. “And what we’re trying to do is address wellness, physical activity and cultural identity. It was a phenomenal event.”

Nine local high school and college players played a key role at the clinic and served as camp counselors, including Del Norte’s Jadence Clifton, who plays at Cal Poly Humboldt, and Eureka’s Bella Vigil, who helped the Butte College women reach the elite eight in state this past season.

“They were our role models,” Feliz said of the players who helped out. “They got right in there with the kids, teaching them skills and kind of being upbeat and motivational and inspiring.”

Other players who served as camp counselors included Nani Scott (Del Norte), Dylan O’Loughlin (Fortuna), Ivy Lamebear (Hoopa), Zach Bowen (Arcata), Mataya Sherman (St. Bernard’s), Steven Graves (McKinleyville) and Dailyn Wallace (Fortuna)

Former McKinleyville High boys head coach Sonny Tripp also was on hand to lend his expertise.

“It was exciting. It was fun,” he said, adding that the camp motto was “Ballin for Wellness.”

Former Wisconsin star Bronson Koenig, who played in the 2015 National Championship game and is a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, was the keynote speaker.

The clinic is one of several Feliz is planning for local Native American youth his year, with softball, wrestling and lacrosse clinics all in the works.

“We have the funding and money to bring in some heavy hitters,” he said.

Sammy BBQ and Catering provided the lunch for Saturday’s clinic.

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