MINNEAPOLIS — The opportunities unfolding this weekend with the NCAA Women's Final Four in Minneapolis are stretching far beyond the court in Target Center, and into the Native communities in the metro.
"From the reservations all the way to the urban cities, you know we need that," said Domonic Tiger-Cortes, and outreach coordinator with the Indigenous Athletics Advancement Council (IAAC).
He's one of several members of the IAAC working to indigenize the game, making the sport more accessible to future generations of Indigenous and Native Americans.
"I'm just happy to represent, I'm happy to help out anyway I can and teach basketball, as it’s my time now to give back to the game," said Tiger-Cortes.
According to the IAAC, less than half a percentage point of all NCAA Division I, II and III athletes are Native American, with even fewer coaches -- a statistic former Oklahoma State and Oral Roberts University player Lakota Beatty is working to change.
"I started out at their age, just like them," said Beatty.
Through community basketball clinics like the Minneapolis American Indian Center.
"You think about Native Americans, we’re already a small population, but not all of us are getting recruited," said Beatty. She went on to explain, "for Native Americans, we come out of the womb playing sports, running around. Basketball is just a part of who we are.”
It's who they are, which is changing the game by promoting the importance of representation in hopes of one day seeing even the tiniest of ballers maybe make it, too.
"When I was in school, I didn’t see anyone that looked like me, and I didn't know that it was possible to play Division I," said Beatty.
"For one of us to make it, it feels like we all make it," said Tiger-Cortes.
The IAAC worked with the NCAA and the Minnesota Local Organizing Committee to secure over 400 tickets for Native youth and their families to attend the Final Four.
More on the NCAA Women's Final Four
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