ADA — After dominating the basketball competion at the 1995 North American Indigenous Games, Oklahoma didn’t send a team for more than a decade.

But a select group of the state’s best Native American athletes will be heading to Denver for NAIG 2006, and Stonewall’s Christie Jennings — one of three girls basketball coaches for Team Oklahoma — said representatives from the other 25 states and 12 Canadian provinces who will be competing in the seven-day event (July 2-9) aren’t necessarily looking forward to Oklahoma’s return.

“Oklahoma hasn’t been to this competition in about 10 years,” Jennings said. “I think Oklahoma won almost every basketball competition back then, and we haven’t been back.

“I think the other states are worried about us,” she added. “I don’t know if that’s pressure, but we’re excited about it.”

Jennings will coach a team made up of 15 and 16-year-olds who will compete in “four or five games” in pool play beginning Monday, July 3, and she said the top teams in each pool will move on to the medal round later in the week. Although she could have taken 12 players to Colorado, she said she will probably have only nine or ten, including two of her own — junior guard Tesia Worcester and sophomore forward Shelby Lackey.

“We only picked 10 (from tryouts held in April), because it kinda dropped off after that,” Jennings said. “One girl couldn’t go because of an injury, but we could still pick up another girl from Anadarko before we leave.”

Worcester was a starting guard as a sophomore on the Stonewall club that advanced to the Class A semifinals this spring, and, after averaging over 10 points and five steals in her first two varsity seasons, she figures to be one of the leaders of a team that could open the 2006-2007 season ranked No. 1 in Class A. Lackey was one of Stonewall’s top bench players as a freshman and will be a top reserve for Jennings again this season.

“Tesia’s our oldest player (on the team for the NAIG), and she’s barely 16,” Jennings said. “That’s made her take a leadership role.”

In addition to Worcester and Lackey, the squad Jennings will coach in Colorado will include sophomore guard Jacklyn Nail from Konawa, Ada sophomore Catie Newport, Byng’s Jalena Walker and Konawa’s Chassy Foster and Kassandra McClain.

“We don’t have a lot of size, but we’re really quick and we handle the ball well,” Jennings said in sizing up her team for the NAIG. “We’re going to rely on our quickness and try to get up and down the floor. That’s the way I like to play, anyway.

“This is an opportunity for me to develop as a coach and coach some new kids,” said Jennings, a former Byng player and assistant who has a 47-11 record in two years as Stonewall’s head coach. “We were going to do something basketball-related this summer anyway, so it might as well be in Colorado.”

Mallory Walker, who as a sophomore led the Coalgate girls to the school’s first state semifinal in 2006, is part of the 17-and-up squad that will represent Oklahoma in Denver, and Ada’s Michael Roberts, Billy Long, Steffan Jones and Colton Richardson are members of a powerful boys basketball squad that will also feature Stonewall center Bo Scribner, Byng’s Jordan Parnacher, Latta standout Trevan Jimboy and the high-scoring Wewoka brother duo of Virgil and Mitchell Tilley.

In addition, the girls basketball squads will include former Ada player Brittany Clonch (who finished her high school career at Achille), and Ada residents Daniel and Jared Walker — who played high school basketball for Sequoyah-Tahlequah — are on the boys roster.

Although basketball players make up the majority of the athletes Oklahoma will send to NAIG 2006, the state will also field teams in golf, track and field and tae kwon do, and, with no Oklahoma softball team going to the competition, Byng’s Logan Needham will compete but for Team Illinois.

Ada sophomore Taylor Howard, who, as a freshman, finished fourth in the Class 5A state golf tournament, is one of four area golfers who will compete next week, joining Sulphur’s Bryeson Lance and Latta’s Ashton Ward and Desiree Lyon, and Fitzhugh resident Dannie Davidson and Ada’s Glen Stanford will compete in tae kwon do.

Area performers on the Oklahoma track squad include Ada’s Meldinda Shico, Drew Elliot and Lindsay Elliot and the Sulphur trio of Cameron Williamson, Justin Tiger and Kendall Lance.

NAIG 2006 is expected to draw about 10,000 athletes, and opening ceremonies will be held Sunday, July 2, at Invesco Field at Mile High (home of the Denver Broncos). The competition — held five times previously since 1990 — is hosted this year by the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes of Colorado and is open to athletes between the ages of 13 and 19 and to adults 20 and over.

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