ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – One of the largest Native American basketball tournaments for high school and middle school students is taking place at UNM. This tournament brings teams from Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Sixty teams from 23 Native American tribes are playing for trophies at the 11th Annual Striking Eagle Native American Invitational. The goal is to get kids interested in college.
Shawn Secatero started this tournament in 2011 with 24 teams from New Mexico. Organizers felt playing a sport during winter break would help teens with their mental health and give them something to do.
“Students are required to also attend workshops as part of their experience on spiritual, mental, and social well-being,” said Secatero. Over the years, the event has brought together 400 teams, 500 volunteers, and held 110 workshops to help students continue their education.
One of those students is Gianna Antonio. She attended her first tournament as a freshman; now she’s a student at UNM.
“I’m a freshman in college, I’m majoring in pre-nursing at the moment, I just finished half of my semester here,” said Antonio. “I think this tournament has really inspired me to keep going with my education.”
According to Secatero, they have over 100 volunteers who pitch in throughout the three-day tournament. Rome Watchman said he started volunteering after seeing his older brother go to the basketball tournament.
“Three generations; three brothers having the same type of love not only for the sport but for this type of event coming together as one,” said Watchman.
The tournament ends Thursday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. All of the money raised goes toward funding next year’s tournament.