There haven’t been a ton of Natives who have been in the position to play basketball in the NCAA Tournament, so to gauge their post-season performances, one must first re-calibrate the scale.
Native Americans are the needles in the haystack of Division I. In 2012, males made up a 10th of a percent of athletes in the sport, compared to females at .6. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment to just make it that far, but some have been fortunate enough to play key roles at some universities during historic seasons.
Though we haven’t had anyone play a significant role on a championship team YET. We’ve gotten close and surely that day will come.
This said, Here are the first Five of the Top 10 Native March Madness Performances:
Number 1 - Angel Goodrich leads Kansas upsets
The 2011-12 Kansas Jayhawks were what March Madness is all about. Near the end of the season, their tournament chances looked bleak—they were a team that started 19-4, but lost six of their last eight games. They had lost their leading scorer for the season to injury. But, for the first time in 13 years, Kansas, behind Angel Goodrich (Cherokee), snuck in, and—as an 11-seed—upset No. 6 Nebraska. The dream ride wasn’t over, yet. Three-seed Delaware, behind star center Elena Delle Donne, was on tap next. Goodrich had a performance for the ages. The junior point guard rallied her team from a six-point halftime deficit, finishing with 27 points with six assists in arguably the biggest upset that season.
Number 2 - Bronson Koenig on point
If you weren’t wowed by Wisconsin sophomore Bronson Koenig’s 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting in the national championship against Duke last year, I’ve got a statistic for you. In 31 minutes of running the point in the biggest game of all in college hoops, Koenig (Ho-Chunk) committed zero turnovers. His performance helped the Badgers hang with the Blue Devils, who pulled away with a 68-63 victory.
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig drives against Duke’s Tyus Jones during the second half of the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament championship game Monday, April 6, 2015, in Indianapolis.
Number 3 - Shoni, Cardinals shock Baylor (aka, the layup heard round the world)
It was the layup that shook Indian country. Shoni Schimmel, on a fastbreak, challenged 6-foot-8 Baylor’s Brittney Griner and cashed in an extremely difficult reverse and-one to boost the spirits of her Louisville teammates. Schimmel’s No. 5-ranked Cardinals were the underdog against No. 1 Baylor, the defending champions. Schimmel (Umatilla) hit five three-pointers to buoy the Cardinals’ 15 for 26 effort from deep, an astonishing 66 percent. She finished with 22 valuable points in the 82-81 upset. Despite fouling out with more than 4 minutes, her efforts undoubtedly provided energy that led to a national championship appearance.
AP Photo/Alonzo Adams
Louisville guard Shoni Schimmel 23) takes a reverse shot over Baylor’s Brittney Griner 42) during the second half of a regional semifinal in the women’s NCAA college basketball tournament in Oklahoma City, Sunday, March 31, 2013. Louisville won 82-82.
Number 4 - Ron Baker helps bury Gonzaga
Ron Baker (Citizen Potawatomi) gave fans and teams a reason to believe the hype in 2013: Wichita State was the first team in more than 20 seasons to enter an NCAA Tournament undefeated. Baker, a redshirt sophomore, scored 16 points in a huge upset over top-seeded Gonzaga, 76-70. He shot 5 for 7, including 4-of-6 from three. The Shockers would go on to lose in the Final Four against Louisville.
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
Wichita State’s Ron Baker 31) shoots a three-pointer as Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos 4) defends in the second half during a third-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Salt Lake City Saturday, March 23, 2013.
Number 5 - Jenna Plumley pummels SE Missouri
Oklahoma’s Jenna Plumley put up the best performance any Native true freshman has ever given in their first NCAA Tournament game in 2007. She was on fire from beyond the arc, shooting 6 for 10, finishing with 20 points in a 74-60 win over Southeastern Missouri State. The Sooners came in as the No. 3-seed, meaning their opponent was the 14. The following year, she repeated a 6 for 10 performance from three in a loss to Notre Dame in the tourney. But she will be remembered most for her coming out party.
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
Oklahoma point guard Jenna Plumley 11) works the ball around Southeast Missouri State guard Ashley Lovelady 1) in the second half of their round one game of the NCAA Women’s division basketball tournament in Austin, Texas, Saturday, March 17, 2007.
Follow ICTMN's Native Sports Columnist Cary Rosenbaum on Twitter - @CaryRosenbaum