Saturday's 6th Annual American Indian American Recognition Day was an exciting and highly charged event all the way around. Although the games were split, with the Lady TBirds beating Phoenix College 67-44 and the men's narrow 83-79 OT loss, it was a day that drew a significant crowd of people from far and near.
Both teams looked sharp and crisp as they unveiled their new turquoise and red uniforms, part of Nike's N7 initiative supporting Native American Heritage Month and provided by MCC's American Indian Institute. Mesa Community College is the first two-year school to receive this recognition from Nike.
Reflecting the values of harmony, family, and friendship Mesa women's basketball announced its newest team member, three-year old Lyla Boni, currently in a fight with leukemia, who the team recently 'signed' and connected with through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation. She and her family traveled from the San Carlos Apache Nation for the game and she was escorted onto the floor by Brady Stephenson, Coach Kori's oldest son, prior to the start of the game. In a tender moment of true sportsmanship the visiting Phoenix Bears women's team and coaching staff all welcomed her to the floor with hugs and high fives before the start of the contest.
It was also a homecoming for some former Mesa Lady TBirds who played under Coach Pam Olerich from 1993-1995. Similar to this year's squad, which is partly comprised of five Native American players, these women were part of an all Native American starting lineup during their time at Mesa.
After the game Pearl Yellowman, Tamera Dawes, Tina Tso-MacCafferty and Taryn Watson came and introduced themselves to the coaching staff and players, posing for pictures and sharing some nostalgic memories. The day's games and these special moments all combined to make it day full of great experiences for the Thunderbirds. We are also excited to have young Lyla as part of our program and appreciate the connection with some special alumni who were part of the rich history and foundation of Mesa basketball. We are looking forward to what next year's event will bring and are grateful to be affiliated with Nike N7.