A Standing Rock athlete takes the stage on Indigenous Heritage Day

VERMILLION, SD (AP) — About half a mile from the main event site, on the second floor of the University of South Dakota’s Muenster University Center, about 100 students from South Dakota’s tribal nations gathered around a series of circular tables in a mix of red and white clothes – game day attire.

They were there for an admissions event, just one stop in a series of events planned for SHU’s Native American Heritage Day, an alumni and prospective student event aimed at honoring the native community on the South Dakota campuses currently as well as in the past and future.

SHU’s Director of Indigenous Recruitment and Alumni Engagement, John Little, and Director of Indigenous Student Services, Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, who helped organize the event, organized many events to engagement like this in the past. But this one was different. It was planned around a basketball game.

“I’ve had several people say to me, ‘I want my kids, I want them to see this,'” Little said.

Before game time, students marched down the road to the Sanford Coyote Sports Center, where USD guard Mason Archambault waited in the stadium tunnel ahead of the Coyotes’ game against Western Illinois, the chief reported. Sioux FallsArgus.

Archambault is enjoying a career year for the Coyotes, averaging 14.8 points while starting every game for a Coyotes team that head coach Todd Lee has admitted to some surprise is better, statistically, on the offensive end. than a season ago when scoring was much more defined with guards AJ Plitzuweit and Stanley Umude to run the show.

Archambault is a big part of that, playing as South Dakota’s second leading scorer after a limited role last year following his transfer from Gillette College. A member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Archambault’s rise to stardom elevated one of SHU’s 11 native athletes to one of the most important stages the Coyotes could offer. And for that game, that nearly doubled the ticket requests that Little and Red Shirt-Shaw were expecting.

Archambault is increasingly aware of this position, and although it was a strange feeling at first, he is proud of it. Notoriety is the result of the success he had this year. It’s not often in South Dakota that an Indigenous athlete has played such a big role in a team’s success, Little said. Archambault thinks the number of Indigenous athletes at SHU could be higher and he wants to be an advocate for those pursuing their dreams in athletics and education.

“They have to keep chasing their dreams and never give up,” Archambault said. “It may not be easy, but keep fighting for your dream and you will get there one day.”

Archambault’s path to stardom was not linear. He was one of South Dakota’s best high school players as a member of Rapid City Stevens on the path to following in the footsteps of his father, Russell Archambault, who played two years of Big Ten basketball at the University of Minnesota.

But Archambault was not immediately introduced to Division I opportunities and he enrolled at Gillette, a junior college. Although he wasn’t quite there yet, Archambault was surrounded by future Division I players and, despite being older than him, he was pleasantly surprised at his ability to match them in practice.

It all crystallized for him that Division-I, his primary goal, was within the realm of possibility. When the Coyotes offered him the opportunity to represent his home state last year, he jumped at the chance.

“I had my eye on this place since high school,” Archambault said. “I decided to accept (the offer) right away.”

Archambault said that being both native and born in South Dakota, fans in the state embraced him from the start. But nothing could have prepared him for this season. Always a good shooter, the game has slowed down for him this season, and he said he felt comfortable trying moves he hadn’t tried since his college days.

It earned him a spot in the starting lineup on opening night and after a mid-season 20-point streak his mother posted a picture of him on Facebook. He scrolled through the comments: all my best wishes and congratulations. He hardly recognized anyone.

Each game brought a new set of notifications, he said. The kids sent him a direct message, calling Archambault their favorite player. He posed for photo after photo (“I’ve taken a lot of photos this year,” he said) and someone even asked for his shoes (but has yet to follow up).

Archambault knew everything would hit him during the game and from the moment he heard his name shouted repeatedly as he poured a cup of water from the Gatorade cooler behind the bench, he was drawn to the moment.

He bowed his head for the Lakota song of honor and the national anthem draped in a Standing Rock Sioux tribal flag. His name was changed at the end of the announcement of the starting lineup, a fact which was not conveyed to Archambault who finished third as usual before being brought back to the bench. When his first shot fell, a 3-pointer, the stadium erupted.

“He’s such a special kid,” Lee said. “You can see how proud he is of where he comes from…it’s great.”

He scored 12 points in USD’s 78-65 win. After the match, Archambault stayed for a while. He knew this was coming – and he was thrilled. It was invaded by people asking for photos, autographs. All the while, Archambault smiled ear to ear.

“It hits me sometimes,” Archambault said. “Like, I got here.”

About Bobby F. Lopez

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