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Native pro basketball team debuts with plenty of Pride

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Native Pride guard DeForest Carter dribbles past a Miami Midnites defender during an American Basketball Association game Dec. 9 at Broward College in Davie. Carter, a former star for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, scored 11 points in the Pride’s 130-119 loss.

DAVIE — Ever since the first pieces of a professional all-Native American pro basketball team were being assembled this spring, Federico Brodsky has talked about making a positive impact on the community.

As Brodsky sat in the stands at Broward College in Davie with about 100 spectators Dec. 9, a sense of community filled the gymnasium to watch the Native Pride – with all Native American players – play its fourth game.

In a corner of the gym to Brodsky’s right, wives of the tribal players held a bake sale to raise money for team uniforms. To his left, Seminole youngsters cheered for the Pride as they battled the Miami Midnites.

“The Recreation Department from Hollywood brought about 25 kids. That’s great. That’s what we want to do, impact the community,” said Brodsky, the Pride’s co-owner. “Everybody’s chipping in. The whole idea is to make an impact in the Native American community.”

The aptly named Pride began practicing in the summer and debuted Nov. 21 with a 121-116 loss to South Florida Gold, one of the top-ranked squads in the 90-plus team American Basketball Association. The Pride’s 27-game regular season ABA schedule runs until mid-March. The league features teams from coast-to-coast and Canada. The Pride’s reach extends well beyond Broward County.

“We’re playing for all the Indian Country. We’re all Natives. One nation,” said Jerome Davis, who comprises the team’s Seminole Tribe of Florida contingent with DeForest Carter, Corey Saunders and Doug Saunders.

Pride players represent more than 10 Tribes. Six-foot-5 forward Kevin Hanks, from the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, had enough energy left after the grueling game to hoist his young daughters in his arms.

“We’re playing for our whole community,” Hanks said. “There’s a whole (group) of Native Americans out there that don’t get to show their talent off. We’re giving ourselves an opportunity for them to come out and do it, too.”

Despite 50 points from smooth-shooting Ronnie Battle, a guard from Comanche Nation in Oklahoma, the Pride fell to the Midnites, 130-119. Jess Heart, from Oglala Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, scored 20 points. Davis registered 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds, while Carter had 11 points and six rebounds.

The Pride features several players from Lords of the Plains and the Plainzmen teams that compete in tournaments throughout the country.

“With all the guys combined, this is probably the best Native team ever,” said Jay Liotta, a Pride guard who runs Lords of the Plains. “You’ve got the top two Native American teams playing together, and we’re starting to add in pieces from other guys across the United States to join us.”

The Pride is coached by former Florida Memorial University head coach Kenny Bellinger.

As a newbie, the Pride is still a work in progress. The team is using the Plainzmen’s uniforms until enough money is raised to buy its own. The team also does not have a permanent court in Broward County to call home.

“We’re still homeless,” Brodsky said. “We’re still looking for sponsors and community help.”

Even without its own uniforms and home, it’s no surprise that the Pride plays with pride.

“They love the team. They love the idea, the concept,” Brodsky said. “They play with heart and soul.”

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