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Unprecedented: Becenti to be inducted into fifth hall of fame

File Photo | Ravonelle Yazzie
Former Arizona State University women’s basketball player Ryneldi Becenti, center, talks about her experience growing up as an athlete on the Navajo Nation on Oct. 15, 2018 in Fort Defiance at the Window Rock Events Center.  Becenti will be honored on Saturday with her fifth hall of fame induction in Oklahoma City.


A fifth hall of fame induction.

That is what Ryneldi Becenti is still trying to wrap her head around as she will be honored on Saturday night by the National Native American Indian Hall of Fame.

“I just don’t have any words to express how I feel,” the former WNBA player told the Navajo Times. “It’s just so unique. You know, when I was young, I never said, ‘Oh, I want to be the hall of fame someday.’ It was never like that, and I never thought I would get recognized.”

Her other inductions include the Scottsdale Community College Hall of Fame, Arizona State University Hall of Fame, Arizona High School Hall of Fame, and the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame.

Becenti said she has no idea how she got nominated for her latest hall of fame, but like her other inductions, she’s grateful she got considered.

“This is the fifth one, which is remarkable and amazing,” she said. “You know, every induction is always prestigious, and this recognition is not only for me but the Navajo Nation and for all the native people.”

According to its website, the National Native American Indian Hall of Fame was established in 2016 by founder James Parker Shield.

“The National Native American Hall of Fame will serve as a unique resource for identifying and honoring contemporary pathmakers, new heroes, and significant contributors to American society,” the website stated. “(It) will help people understand how Native Americans overcame the hopelessness of early reservation, and the trauma of Indian boarding schools, poverty, discrimination, racism, and the cultural divide to not only adapt to achieve greatness in every field, profession, and industry.”

The hall of fame ceremony will take place Saturday night at the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City.

Becenti and eight other recipients will be honored.

“This year’s class of hall of fame inductees have made significant impacts in Indian Country,” Shield said. “Each one has brought about dramatic improvements and substantive changes to the lives of Native people and communities.”

Becenti’s contribution has been well-documented as she started as a rising basketball star at Window Rock High School in the late 1980s.

In 1989, she played for the Scottsdale Community College women’s team, becoming one of the country’s top junior college point guard.

After her two-year stint at the JUCO level, she played her remaining two years of eligibility for the Arizona State women’s basketball team. She earned All-Pac 10 First Team honors for the two seasons she played.

Upon graduating, she played internationally in Sweden, Greece, and Turkey before she signed with the Phoenix Mercury as a free agent in 1997.

“I knew what I was capable of, and, you know, I’ve always had that passion to play basketball,” she said. “I knew that I could take my talent to another level, and I’m glad (former SCC coach) Mike Medder gave me a chance right after high school, and I took it.

“ASU gave me that same opportunity, and I took it,” she said. Becenti has fond memories of playing at the collegiate level, especially at ASU, when then Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah helped facilitate bus rides down to the Valley to watch her play.

“My first couple of games, we had less than 200 people,” Becenti said. “By the fourth game, it got crowded, and for our really big games with UCLA, USC and UofA, there were a lot of people.”

Becenti said she’s accomplished a lot in her lifetime and wants the people she’s influenced to carry that torch, whether in sports or education.

“I hope they’re making a difference,” she said. “You know, if the opportunity is there to leave the reservation, leave the reservation. Go see the world because there is a lot out there.”

Besides herself, Becenti feels that others have made a difference, such as Gwynn Hobbs-Grant, Rainy Crisp, Matt Vail, and Clifford Johns.

“It’s not just me,” she said while noting that others have pushed that needle.

“I’ve seen others in sports like cross-country, volleyball, and rodeo who excel at their sports,” she said. “It’s great to see that, and if not in sports, go make a difference in the education field. To become a doctor and become a lawyer.

“My message for everyone is, why not you? Why not us?” she added. “Why don’t we make a difference? The time is now and let’s all contribute.”

About The Author

Quentin Jodie

Quentin Jodie is the Sports Editor for the Navajo Times. He started working for the Navajo Times in February 2010 and was promoted to the Sports Editor position at the end of summer in 2012. Previously, he wrote for the Gallup Independent. Reach him at


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