- Although the crowd didn't quite meet the expectations of Shinnecock Nation, the excitement surely did. As part of the Celebrity Streetball Tour 2009, the AND1/ESPN Streetball Legends paid a visit to Southampton High's gym last weekend and put on a show filled with acrobatic dunks, nifty ballhandling and, not to be overlooked, competitive basketball.
Phillip Champion, aka Hot Sauce, puts a move on his Warrior defender and makes his way toward the basket.
Prominent names from the tour included Hot Sauce (Phillip Champion) and Spyda (Dennis Chism) went toe to toe with the Shinnecock Warriors, made up of community members, among which were current and former Mariners. The Warriors held the lead after one quarter until the AND1 legends took over, rolling to a 20-point halftime lead and eventually the win.
The Shinnecock squad certainly wasn't overwhelmed by the Legends, which came as no surprise to event coordinator Paula Bess Collins. Mariner favorites like Anthony Reddick (2008) and Leah Eleazer (2009) helped keep the hosts in the ballgame.
"Basketball is huge in Indian country," Collins said, noting the five-day Native American Basketball Invitational to be played in Phoenix next month. "People don't realize that tribes across the country compete. It's very competitive."
Southampton senior Leah Eleazer puts a move on Hot Sauce and looks to create her own offense.
Proceeds from the event went to the Shinnecock Nation Youth Council and the Young Men of Shinnecock. According to Collins, approximately $2,000 was raised, although appearance fees paired with lukewarm attendance left the organization in the red overall. Collins said she expected attendance in the 800 range and thus was disappointed when, by her estimation, 150-200 were on hand.
Tribal Trustee Gordell Wright sings the Shinnecock flag song prior to last weekend's game at the high school.
"I think that if we do it again, we will have an amazing turnout," Collins said. "It's just timing. People were just really busy that weekend."
The night prior, the Shinnecocks held their widely anticipated Miss Shinnecock Indian Teen Pageant, which was revived after a 13-year hiatus. The pageant winners were then introduced. Autumn Rose Williams was named Miss Shinnecock Teen; Mattah Wright was selected Junior Miss Shinnecock Teen.
A barbecue dinner for the young men on the reservation, including those on the Native American Rodeo Circuit, also took place.
Gordell Wright, a tribal trustee, opened up the festivities with the Shinnecock flag song. The event was emceed by Fordell Willis, who assigned nicknames to the Warrior players on the fly and interjected his humor throughout the game.
"I think the people who came would come again and would bring people with them," Collins said. "Everyone who came had an amazing time."
Funds from the event were dedicated to the Shinnecock National Youth Council, which is made up young people from the community who promote personal development, citizenship, and leadership among Native American youth. Several will attend the United National Indian Travel Youth (UNITY) Conference in Albuquerque, NM from July 3 through July 7.