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Navajo basketball by way of Idaho

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Nat Deswood, Navajo, was player of the year in New Mexico last year, playing for the 4A high school in Farmington, N.M. This year he's playing for North Idaho College (NIC) in the northern Idaho town of Coeur d'Alene. NIC plays in the Southwest Athletic Conference, perhaps as tough as any junior college conference in the country. That's a major change for an 18-year-old.

Deswood put up good numbers for his high school team last year. His comment was "My numbers weren't great but good enough to get the job done." They were also good enough to be selected as player of the year and selection to the north-south All-Star Game. He averaged about 15 points per game, six assists, six steals and about six rebounds.

Darrell Tso, also Navajo, is NIC's minority student adviser and saw an article about Deswood in the Navajo Times. Tso brought Deswood to Coeur d'Alene last spring to visit the campus and meet some of the other student-athletes. The school didn't have money to buy a plane ticket so when pow wow participants heard about the situation, they contributed money to help.

Deswood's reaction to the school? "I liked the area and it reminded me of a place close to home which was nice." Asked now about NIC he replied, "I like it a lot."

Coach Hugh Watson also likes Deswood a lot. Watson commented, "He's such a quality young man. I am pleased to have Nat here with us. I'm looking forward to having him on the team for the next two years." Commenting on Deswood's work ethic he said, "He's never complained about how hard we're running or whatever we're doing in practice. He's living in Post Falls (about nine miles away) and hasn't missed a practice or been late for a practice and he has to ride a bicycle sometimes."

Deswood's promptness and reliability hasn't surprised Tso who commented, "Nat was raised in a very traditional Navajo family with strong family values. That reflects in everything he does. He always goes back to talking about his grandmother's place and the chores she had him do. He has a good work ethic and starts the day early, being productive during the day and going to bed early. These things have influenced who he is. He is able to apply these values into classroom work and onto the basketball courts."

Deswood could play a couple of positions on the team. Coach Watson said "We're trying him at the point right now. I think down the line when he gets to know what we're trying to get accomplished and our goals he's going to be a big plus for us and play quite a bit for us this year."

Deswood was a good high school student, graduating with nearly a 3.0 GPA. He's considering a college major in civil engineering. It's still early in his freshman year but he seems to be adapting well to college.

He's found that college ball differs from high school. As he said, "It's a lot quicker and a lot more aggressive and players are stronger." As for NIC's team, "we're looking good."