Bridging the gap

Basketball camp ‘a plus for the Navajo Nation’

FARMINGTON

In the Navajo Preparatory School gymnasium there is an obvious gap between the campers and coaches that can only be bridged by one thing: basketball.

Special to the Times | Ray Landry
Rising Stars camp coaches Nadia Watson, left, and Jessica Nez talk to campers on June 21 at Navajo Prep.

Every summer, the gym is home to a number of basketball and volleyball camps that started with the girl’s basketball camp 24 years ago.

The camp has seen campers come and go, the same with coaches, but has most recently has seen a consistency in the all-star coaching lineup, which often features former women’s college and professional Navajo basketball players.

The former basketball standouts are some of the Navajo Nation’s finest, who long vowed to return home to bridge the gap.

“Coming in, I knew in high school that I wanted to coach. I knew I wanted to coach within this area because the passion for basketball is huge and it’s a part of out lives here,” said camp coordinator Rainy Crisp.

“For the camp, it’s just a part of me. I attended this camp and then came back as a coach, then being one of the camp coordinators with my dad. I really want to keep it going, I’ve seen what it’s done for me, how much fun I had … I want to continue to give back to our girls.”

Crisp, who grew up playing basketball in a time when female Navajo basketball players were trying to break barriers, said there’s been a solid desire to continue the camp and to get coaches who share the same desire to give back to the community.

For some coaches, giving back is an obligation; for others, it’s a thirst.

The all-star coaching line up for the 24th annual girl’s camp, which took place last week, featured some legendary players/coaches and those looking to make their marks.

Crisp acted as a coach and camp coordinator along side Ryneldi Becenti, former WNBA player for the Phoenix Mercury and former Arizona State University standout. Other coaches included former Kirtland Central High School and Boise State University standout Nadia Begay-Watson; Nicole Crisp, Rainy Crisp’s younger sister, who played for Navajo Prep as well as Mesa Community College and Simpson College in Iowa; Jessica Nez, a standout from Thoreau High School, and former college player for Howard Junior College in Texas, and former Navajo Prep standout Jazmin Benally who currently plays for Iowa Lakes Community College.

Begay-Watson, who is in her fourth year coaching at the camp, said her involvement with the camp started out as a desire to give back, but has since shifted a little.

She said her perspective has shifted now that she’s a mother and experienced coach.

“The biggest thing for me when I left Idaho was to come back and to give back what people have given to me, people like Ryneldi, Gwynn (Hobbs-Grant) and Rainy. I looked up to them and they came back when I was here, when I was younger, just kind of paying it forward,” Begay-Watson said.

“Me having little girls, in a way it does feel like not only do I have to take care of my two little girls, but my volleyball (team) of 30-plus girls, and now 50 girls. With me it never started out as an obligation, but now as time moved on, I see that there’s more to it,” Begay-Watson said. “I think that’s in a way a little bit of pressure to put on me to try to help these girls in ways that are beyond basketball.”


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Categories: Basketball

About Author

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi

Sunnie Clahchischiligi has been the sports writer for the Navajo Times since 2008. She has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of New Mexico. Before joining the Times, she worked at the St. Cloud Times (Minn.), the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sports Illustrated Magazine in New York City and the Salt Lake Tribune. She can be reached at sunnie@navajotimes.com or via cell at (505) 686-0769.