MOSCOW, Idaho – The gritty accoutrements framed the essence of the game and highlighted it.
“Growing up, if you were out of school, you were outside or in a gym playing basketball,” Idaho guard Trevon Allen said. “Dirt court, hoop broken, no net, chain net.”
It was a game of flow, no structure.
“Get and go,” Allen said.
An endless loop of running and creating wove its way through the heart of reservation kids like Allen, an enrolled member of the Umatilla Tribe who grew up on the Nez Perce reservation at Lapwai.
Allen was good enough to merge these essential basketball skills with the defined defenses and set offenses that characterize the game in high school and college. Allen, a sophomore, and Chance Garvin, a freshman from Coulee Dam, Washington, and an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, are on the Vandals’ roster this year.
Garvin is still developing as a player. On a senior-dominated Vandals team, he is finding minutes are scarce.
Garvin has appeared in five games, but Allen has played in all 18 of the Vandals’ games and played in all 33 last year. He has career highs of 25 points, six rebounds and five assists.
“He’s a consistent guy day in and day out,” Vandals coach Don Verlin said of Allen. “He continues to work on his game,” Allen’s parents went to Idaho, and his father played football there.
“It was fun recruiting him,” Verlin said regarding the family connection.
Idaho will observe its second annual Tribal Nations Night when it plays host to the North Dakota on Saturday. The first edition of the event featured a halftime flag ceremony highlighting area tribes, a drum group and exhibitions of powwow dancing.
It was a memorable display, and it put a spotlight on tribes, said Leanna Dann, program coordinator with the UI Office of Tribal Relations. The Vandals also tipped Montana State 83-81 in overtime as Allen played 13 minutes and scored a couple of points.
In addition to helping the Vandals on the court against UND, Garvin and Allen will serve as role models for young people from the tribes, Dann said. The players appear on a poster promoting Tribal Nations Night.
Maybe not so much with Garvin, who is likely to spend most of the game on the bench, but certainly in Allen, kids from reservations who intensely love basketball have tangible proof that someone who shares their background can thrive in college. This is not an automatic assumption for young people from many reservations where poverty, gang violence and teen suicides are rampant.
“Obviously, it helps to have ‘T’ here,” Verlin said. “He’s very proud of his heritage. He can help these kids see there is a way out. He’s the guy to do it.”
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