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Shootin’ hoops in Sheridan

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SHERIDAN, Wyo. – Tahnee Robinson, with Sheridan College, ranks near the top of junior college women basketball players in the country. She was recently named a national player of the week in November in the NJCAA and leads the nation in scoring with an average 30.2 points per game. Those are incredible accomplishments for anyone, and probably surprising considering Robinson is from the small American Indian community of Fort Washakie on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

Robinson is much more than just a prolific scorer. Her coach, Frank McCarthy, knows that best. “The thing about her, she not only can score but she’s our best defender, our best passer, our best rebounder, and she just understands the game incredibly well. She has some great habits of playing hard. If somebody gets a steal – a lot of times kids will give up and maybe go to only half court – she’ll always sprint the length of the court. It’s hard to get a habit like that. I think a big credit of that is her mom.”

Robinson is enrolled Northern Cheyenne, her dad’s ancestry, but grew up on the Wind River Reservation. She was raised in a traditional family, going to sun dances and used to pow wow regularly. “I grew up around grandfather who was Eastern Shoshone and he’d talk to us in Shoshone and when I was younger I took Shoshone class. I used to jingle dress dance and I still have a jingle dress I’ve never worn so it’s there waiting for me,” she said.

Basketball came into her life early. “I’ve grown up around basketball since I was a little baby,” Robinson said. “My mom would take me to basketball tournaments with her and I used to play midget basketball and stuff like that.”

Her mother, Sara Robinson, coached her and a team from Fort Washakie when Tahnee was a young girl. “She was a standout even then,” Sara said. “The Creator had given her a lot of gifts. It was readily apparent from birth. When she was young she was faster than everybody, taller than everybody, stronger than everybody, but she also has always worked at that gift.”

“She was real close to her grandmother and she tried to instill in Tahnee that because of all the gifts the Creator had given her to not be conceited or too proud and to always be thankful and never to look down on people. She does that. She tries to remain really true to that.”

It probably helped that she was always surrounded by athletes. Both parents were college athletes. Her grandfathers and uncles played college basketball. That helped provide the work ethic it takes to get to that level.

Her parents had to make a difficult decision when Tahnee started seventh grade to send her to nearby Lander, Wyo. which is just off the reservation and predominantly non-Indian. The decision was made based on what they felt was best for her. It caused some problems, on both sides, but she has overcome that.

Her high school career was spectacular. She was a member of the varsity starting five as a freshman and became all-state that first year in both basketball and volleyball. “I got all-state all four years in a row and was Gatorade Player of the Year my senior year for the state of Wyoming,” she said. Few athletes have achieved those accomplishments anywhere in the country.

Coach McCarthy met her that summer. “We pick the top 10 kids in Wyoming and bring them to Sheridan for a week. Then Montana comes down and plays and we go up there and play. Wyoming doesn’t beat Montana a lot but the year she was on the team we won both games.” She had already signed with the University of Wyoming but McCarthy said, “If it doesn’t work out there I’ll always have a scholarship for you.”

The words turned out to be prophetic. At the University Tahnee became pregnant, got married and dropped out of school. The marriage ended and her baby boy, Julius, is now primarily being raised by his grandparents. “A lot of schools just wrote her off,” Sara said. McCarthy stood by his earlier promise and she enrolled at Sheridan in the fall of 2007. “She’s had the opportunity to leave for bigger schools and play three years for them but she made the decision she couldn’t leave coach McCarthy,” Sara added.

McCarthy is elated to have her. “She’s a tremendous person with a tremendous amount of responsibility on her. She’s a great role model for the younger girls. She’s quite a player.”

And what are her goals? “I really want to be an All American. I’d like my team to go to Nationals. Once you’re there so many more opportunities open up for you. When I leave Sheridan I want to be happy with the way everything was. Right now I’m happy with the way everything’s going.”

And after that, “I really want to go to a [Division 1] school and keep playing. After I graduate I want to go overseas and play. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway.”

With a string of games in November where she scored more than 40 points, who would bet against her?

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