The tattoo of an eagle feather wrapped around a basketball with the words “Cante Wasaga Win” written above it is not just a symbol. It’s a window into who Tesha Buck is.
Buck, a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay basketball player was given her Dakota name Cante Wasaga Win (Strong Hearted Woman) by her great-grandmother Clara Buck; and it reminds her where she came from.
“[The tattoo] is from mid-rib cage to my hip, so it’s a decent sized,” Buck told ICTMN. “My great-grandma gave me her Indian name, which means a lot to me. So having my Indian name on me is a symbol and very meaningful because of who gave it to me.”
But the basketball, reminds her where she’s going.
Courtesy Tesha Buck
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay freshman has been chasing the dream of playing basketball at the NCAA Division-I level for as long as she can remember. Buck went from a 13-year-old, eighth-grader starting on the Red Wing High School varsity team to being a freshman starter for the Green Bay women’s basketball team.
“It was hard to make the adjustment to the new level of play and understand just how much work you have to put into it,” said Buck, who was on the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100 Watch List for the 2013 class. “But the biggest change was leaving my family and siblings behind. I’m really family-oriented and it’s really important to me. They’re just four hours away, but I’m used to having them around.”
“Tesha is only the second freshman starter in the last 15 years, which is pretty unique,” said Kevin Borseth, Green Bay head coach, whose career record was 332-138 going into the season. “She’s learning on the fly with some on-the-job training. Obviously, being a freshman, there are some inconsistencies, but she’s learning. She’s fun to coach.”
So far, she has held her own. The 5-foot-11 freshman ranks second on the team in points (10.2 ppg) and rebounds (4.8) through her first 19 games.
Buck lived in the Prairie Island Indian Community on the Mdewakanton Sioux reservation in Minnesota until she was six years old. Her father Rich Buck has been a part of her development every step of the way. He knows Tesha is doing something special among Native Americans.
According to the NCAA, only 0.5 percent of women's college basketball players across all divisions were American Indian or Alaskan Native during the 2012-13 academic year. That’s 82 Native women out of more than 16,000 players. In Division-I, the total was just 23 Native women out of 4,972 participants.
“I haven’t had a whole lot of concern because Tesha was always been pretty driven,” Rich said. “She knew at an early age that she wanted to play basketball and wasn’t going to let things get in the way. It’s a bit of a surprise that she’s starting, but I anticipated she would do well because of all the work she’s put in to get there.”
Buck has been a sense of pride and inspiration in Native communities. Now that she’s started her college career, she wants to do what she can to inspire other Native Americans to chase their dreams.
“Even in high school, the kids on the reservation looked up to me. But I never really realized that until people brought it to my attention,” Buck said. “Hopefully people see me as a good role model.”
Buck is one of the new Native faces in women’s college basketball. Jude and Shoni Schimmel, sisters from the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla in Oregon, rose to national prominence playing for Louisville.
“I think it’s cool to see Native American people make it and let others know they can too,” Buck said. “A lot of Native American kids just don't have the right people to look up to. Now that Shoni and Jude are doing what they're doing, I think it's really good for younger generations. It’s not just me. It’s everybody as a people.”