Red Cloud players transferred to high schools to play basketball and sports
The Oglala Sioux Tribe Stay-at-Home Order and the subsequent decision of the Red Cloud High School of withdraw from the basketball season resulted in the transfer of several student-athletes (usually out of reservation) to secure their opportunities.
While their experiences at the new schools were positive, almost all of the transfer students decided to return home to the reserve after basketball season.
Here are the stories of some athletes who transferred to different schools to continue playing sports:
Allison Richards, Rapid City Central
When the last horn sounded Rapid City Central wins over Huron in SoDak 16, junior Allison Richards turned to her teammate and Red Cloud transfer colleague Sadie Glade.
“We did it,” Richards told him. “That’s what it feels like.”
A week later, they were on a bus to Sioux Falls for the Class AA State Tournament. “It was a feeling I had never felt before, an intense feeling of joy and happiness,” said the 5-foot-5 goaltender.
It wasn’t exactly what Richards envisioned for his comeback season.
After missing her second season with a knee injury, she was eager to play for Matt Rama again and optimistic about the Crusaders’ chances of returning to the state. But when Red Cloud retired from basketball, she began to explore her options.
Richards considered Bennett County and Hot Springs, before ultimately choosing Rapid City Central for the opportunity to play for coach Allan Bertram and at a larger school.
“I felt it was the best fit for me at the time,” said Richards, who traveled 90 miles several times before moving with his family to the Rapid City area.
Although initially scared of joining a new team in the middle of the season and the drama it could bring, Richards immediately felt welcomed by his new teammates. After a few games, she began to adapt to the Cobblers’ playstyle and develop chemistry with her teammates.
At home, Richards’ parents were sad to see their youngest child leave, but stuck together throughout the process. They visited him on weekends. If she had any difficulties during the week, they would get a hotel room in Rapid and stay with her for the night.
“There were a few times I called my mom crying because I just wanted to come home,” Richards said. “All the emotions I was having transferring, trying to fit in and bad games… they got me through the tough times.”
Once the basketball season was over, Richards considered staying and running for the RCC – she wanted the “full experience” of competing at an “AA” school – but ultimately decided to return to Red. Cloud.
“My heart just wanted to come home,” Richards said. “I’ve been here since kindergarten so I just wanted to finish strong here.”
Jules Ecoffey, Hot Springs
When Red Cloud retired from winter sports, Jules Ecoffey decided to move to Hot Springs, a public school about an hour from his home, for both the opportunity to play basketball and ‘having an in-person learning, a luxury close to Lakota Tech could not offer.
“Honestly, we just wanted to get out downstairs,” said Ecoffey, who wrote to the tribal council earlier in the year, urging them to consider changing the stay-at-home ordinance.
“We just wanted to go back to class and have a normal chance.”
Ecoffey highly appreciated his experience at Hot Springs. The community welcomed him and the other transfers with open arms, and they made lots of new friends along the way.
“We were nervous at the start, but it was definitely a good environment,” he said. “I’m glad we made this decision.”
Jade Ecoffey, Hot Springs
Jade Ecoffey was prepared to stay in Hot Springs for her entire second semester.
She had transferred with her brother, Jules Ecoffey, and a few other Red Cloud students after their basketball season was canceled in January. Although she joined the Bison for the second half of their season, her focus was more on spring and the opportunity to race on the track.
Of course, it was difficult to make the hour-long drive from Pine Ridge to Hot Springs each day, but Ecoffey was willing to continue doing this hike if his school didn’t have a track season.
“I couldn’t trust them to have a basketball season so I wasn’t going to trust them to have a track season,” Ecoffey said. “I already missed my first season and almost missed XC. Running is my main sport and I was ready to run in Hot Springs… I wasn’t going to take the risk like I did. did with basketball. ”
The distance star attended a few practices in Hot Springs, but when Red Cloud announced they would have a season, she returned to her old school.
In late May, Ecoffey became the school’s first-ever state track champion, scoring wins in the 3,200-meter race and the mile at the Class A State meet at Spearfish.
“I was so happy to have been able to represent my school to the state. It was amazing,” Ecoffey said. “All of my hard work and dedication paid off.”
Adriano Rama, Lakota technician
On the same day, Red Cloud canceled his basketball season, Adriano Rama filed his transfer papers with Lakota Tech.
Make no mistake, leaving the Crusaders was a tough decision for the 5-foot-10 guard. Her father, Matt, is the head coach of women’s basketball and her older brother, Alejandro, enjoyed a decorated high school career before heading to South Dakota Mines.
When the 2020-21 season was cut short, Adriano was heartbroken.
“It was devastating,” he said. “I put a lot of effort into playing for Red Cloud, to represent Red Cloud, to be a part of this school.… I was thrilled to really start my career, my second season, here. not collapsed. “
Rama did not want to lose a season of eligibility and was prepared to do whatever was necessary to make it happen.
At Lakota Tech, that meant following the school’s strict safety protocols, which included wearing a mask at all times, even while playing. At home, Adriano and his family decided to distance themselves from their grandparents and elders.
“It was difficult, but my grandparents got it,” Rama said. “They watched all the live broadcasts and supported me.”
Jewelia LeBeau, Lakota Tech
Bessie LeBeau, Jewelia’s mother and an elementary school teacher in the Oglala Lakota County School District, was a strong advocate for high school basketball. She wrote letters to the tribal council and rallied her support on Facebook. When Red Cloud retired from basketball in January, she held a small protest outside the school church.
The school upheld their decision, so Bessie offered Jewelia two options: she could either go to Lakota Tech or not play basketball.
“I didn’t really know what to do,” Jewelia said. “I could stay here and train with Matt, but I couldn’t play, or I could go to Lakota Tech, where I didn’t really know anyone.”
The sophomore guard didn’t want to sit for a whole year, so she transferred to Lakota Tech. While it was an overall positive experience, LeBeau admitted there had been some tough times.
“I was sometimes so sad there, but I would talk to my friends and they would bring me back,” she said. “They would remind me that we are in the middle of a pandemic and that no one is really going to have the life they love.”
Raina Ghost Bear, Hot Springs
Transferring to another school was not on Raina Ghost Bear’s mind immediately after her junior basketball season was canceled at Red Cloud. But soon after the decision was announced, coach Matt Rama reached out and let her know she had options if she wanted to play elsewhere.
After speaking with his parents, Ghost Bear decided to explore his opportunities. Its first choice, Bennett County in the nearby town of Martin, was not accepting new students. So she signed up for Hot Springs, which was an hour’s drive away, but suited her well academically, and unlike Lakota Tech, was also offered in person. learning.
“I enjoyed going back to class,” said Ghost Bear, who ranks first in his class academically. “I’m a visual learner so it was a lot easier for me. I really learned a lot going to Hot Springs. I liked it a lot.”
Ghost Bear said she immediately felt welcome at her new school, while on hardwood she led the Bison to a victory over Bennett County in their first game in the home region. since a while.
“I missed that feeling before the game, I missed the crowd and the shooting,” said Ghost Bear. “It definitely brought some normalcy to my life and I really enjoyed it.”
Haedyn Haas, Hot Springs
Haedyn Haas was looking to stay at Red Cloud and start preparing for a potential spring football season after basketball was canceled. But when a few of their friends started transferring, he and teammate Jules Ecoffey started discussing their options. Given the lingering uncertainty surrounding football, Haas (and Ecoffey) have decided to move to Hot Springs for their second season.
“It was tough,” the 5-foot-8 goaltender said of his mid-season transfer. “It was a different atmosphere, a different energy from here. It’s a little hard to fit in, to meet all the new players and all that, but after a while I felt like Jules and I really fit in with them. ”
Haas also plays baseball for the Bison, so he continued to take classes in Hot Springs after the basketball season. But after a few weeks, he realized it was time to return to Red Cloud. Haas missed his old school – and the hour-long daily commute wasn’t much fun. “I never got used to it,” he laughed.
Asked if he thinks he’ll get back to normal in 2021-2022, the future junior said: “I hope and pray that it does because this last year has really sucked. really is. “
Follow Brian Haenchen on Twitter at @Brian_Haenchen.