The Native NCAA athletes this season come from reservations and cities across the country and are making names for themselves on the basketball court as go-to players, or in valuable support roles. If you're already a fan of Bronson Koenig, then you're sure to be interested in these Native NCAA athletes as we head into month before March Madness.
Bronson Koenig / Wisconsin
Bronson Koenig (Ho-Chunk) is a 6 foot 4” guard for the Wisconsin Badgers that has blossomed into a superstar throughout his college career with countless appearances on mainstream television in the past four years.
Thanks to a gracious bit of help from Koenig, Wisconsin has won 13 of its last 14 games, earning them a rank of No. 15 in the country. This season the Badgers will make another strong run at the national championship—which they earned runner-up in 2015—due in large part to Koenig’s average of 14.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists so far this season.
In December 2016, Bronson Koenig wrote an outstanding tribute to his experience in Standing Rock. Koenig’s historic college career will come to an end after March and he will surely be remembered as one of the great Native NCAA athletes.
Caitlyn Ramirez / Troy
At 6’ 2” and averaging of 11.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, Caitlyn Ramirez (Seminole) has the skill and size size to put up big numbers on the scoreboard. Her hard work could also get her an opportunity to play professional basketball.
In January, Ramirez’s 18-rebound performance as well as being named the Third-Team All-Sun Belt Conference, Ramirez and her school Troy has a strong chance to make the NCAA Tournament to represent accomplished Native NCAA athletes.
Chelsea Dungee / Oklahoma
As a freshman, Chelsea Dungee, a 5’ 11” Cherokee has played a significant role for No. 20 Oklahoma, which is 15-5 so far this year. Dungee was the 15th-ranked high school point guard in the nation last year.
She averages 7.3 points per game, and led Team USA’s 16U team to the championship in 2013 for a gold medal.
Derek Willis / Kentucky
Thanks in a big part to the contributions of 6’ 9” Derek Willis (Southern Arapaho, Pawnee and Creek) the Kentucky Wildcats always seem to be gunning for a national championship under coach John Calipari. 2017 marks the year the Wildcats could win their 50th regular season conference championship.
Thanks to Willis, averaging 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 35 percent from three-point line, the Wildcats are ranked No. 5 in the nation and could capture their first national title since 2012. This is Willis’ last season.
Native Women Trio / Nevada
When the Nevada Wolfpack brought on Terae Briggs last year, three Native Americans were officially on its NCAA Division I roster – likely the first-time in men’s or women’s hoops history.
Terae Briggs (Crow), Morningrose Tobey (Assiniboine Sioux) and Desirae Gonzalez (Navajo) all average 10 or more minutes per game for the Wolfpack. The 6’ 2” Briggs has been a double-double threat, averaging 7.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while guards Tobey and Gonzalez average 4 points apiece.
Nevada (7-11) will need to make a strong push to make the postseason.
Lindy Waters / Oklahoma State
Lindy Waters (Kiowa, Cherokee) was one of the most talented high school basketball players last season at Norman North in Norman, Oklahoma. The 6’ 6’ guard averages 6.2 points and 2.1 rebounds for Oklahoma State (12-8).
Tisha Phillips / Eastern Washington
Tisha Phillips (Nez Perce) handles and hustles for the EWU Eagles. The 5’ 9” point guard averages 13.8 points, 3.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game.
The Eagles are 10-8 and It’s conceivable that Phillips could lead Eastern Washington to the NCAA Tournament..
Michael Buchanan / USC Upstate
At 7 feet tall, Michael Buchanan (Blackfeet) has earned over 1,000 points, becoming the 21st player at the University of South Carolina Upstate’s history to do so. The senior has averaged 14.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game for the 14-9 Spartans. He plays a key role which could help his team to earn an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Buchanan played his high school ball in Las Vegas and was last year’s All Atlantic Sun Conference second teamer.
The Beatty Sisters / Oral Roberts
Junior Lakota and sophomore Ashley Beatty are the first sisters to play on an NCAA Division I team since Shoni and Jude Schimmel. The 5’ 8” guards have helped Oral Roberts University to a winning record this season at 11-10, with a highlight double-overtime win against Kansas.
With Lakota averaging 12.4 points and Ashley averaging 5.4 points a game, there’s a lot of potential for this season at ORU.
Chance Comanche / Arizona
At 6 foot 9” Chance Comanche, (Choctaw, Comanche) has found an increasing role with the Arizona Wildcats, who rank seventh in the AP Top 25 poll.
The sophomore from Beverly Hills, California averages 5.8 points and 3.6 rebounds and about 18 minutes per game for Arizona, which is 18-2 and undefeated in Pac-12 play. Another one of the great Native NCAA athletes to watch.
Brad Greene / UC-Irvine
At 6 foot 8” and 320 pounds, Brad Greene (Paiute-Shoshone) is a freshman at University of California-Irvine making some serious waves for his team.
Greene averages 3.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game for the 13-9 Anteaters, who rank first in their Pacific West Conference and could be NCAA Tournament-bound.
Lauren Billie / UT-Arlington
Lauren Billie, a 5 foot 6” sophomore from Tulsa, Oklahoma has made eight starts in 17 games for University of Texas at Arlington. The team has a 13-4 record, including 8-1 at home, with Billie averaging 3.8 points per game.
On Feb. 23, Billie (Seminole, Creek) will face off with fellow Seminole Caitlyn Ramirez in Arlington, with the winner going to the NCAA Tournament. Billie will surely continue to serve as a role model for Native NCAA athletes.
Cary Rosenbaum (Colville Confederated Tribes) is a correspondent and columnist for Indian Country Media Network. Follow him on Twitter: @caryrosenbaum