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Big Ballers tourney draws players from throughout Indian Country

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Defenders try to prevent a player from scoring as he dribbles the ball down the court Dec. 4 at the Howard Tiger Recreation Center in Hollywood.

HOLLYWOOD — The two-day 11th annual Randall Huggins Memorial Big Ballers basketball tournament tipped off Dec. 4 as players from across Indian Country vied for a shot at being crowned champions while also honoring the late Randall Huggins.

Boisterous spectators filled the stands at the Howard Tiger Recreation Center and Classic Gym. Rap music blared through speakers during intermissions while the players prepared for games.

“There’s a lot of good competition out here,” said Joe Collins, Recreation site manager in Hollywood.

Using his own money, Tribal member Randall Huggins started the basketball tournament more than 15 years ago. After his passing in 2000, Randall’s father, Norman Huggins, and other family members teamed up to continue the legacy that Randall left behind.

About 20 Native teams with eight-player rosters featured Seminoles and Miccosukees from Florida and players from as far as Arizona, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Canada. Average ages ranged from 23 to 27 years old.

“They’ve been showing love from day one,” said Trail Liaison Norman Huggins when asked about players’ participation and support.

The tournament also provides players with meals and other accommodations.

“We’re known for our hospitality,” Huggins said.

Next to the Classic Gym, Iona’s Fry Bread supplied tournament attendees with euphoric aromas and mouth-watering foods and drinks. A fundraiser for a Bird Clan Tribal member featured homemade desserts.

Inside, Big Cypress Seminole Media Productions secretary Esther Gopher held her grandson while one of her daughters played. Young friends Quiñliryia Wilson and Marcela Osceola also watched the games.

“It’s fun. We’re girls and we like to watch the women play,” Osceola said.

“Yeah. Boys play ball. It’s more interesting to see women [play]. You usually only see boys [play],” agreed Wilson.

Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola, who spoke during an intermission, thanked the crowd and wished players good fortunes throughout the tournament.

After a one-year hiatus in 2014, the tournament returned in good shape and will continue next year, Norman Huggins said.

“Overall, [the tournament] went really good,” he said. “We just want it to keep getting bigger and better.”

In the championship tilts, Lords of Plains captured the men’s title, while the Lady Ballers won the women’s crown.

Led by Ronnie Battle’s 25 points, Lords of Plains outlasted Plainzmen, 80-68, in a championship clash that featured players on both sides from the American Basketball Association’s Native Pride.

Battle set the tone early by making four 3-pointers in the first half. The champions also received 18 points from Milton Garner, 13 from Kallan Glasgow and 11 each from Jerome Davis and Craig Foster.

“It was a good tournament,” said Lord of Plains’ Jay Liotta. “There wasn’t as many teams as there usually is, but it’s always a good tournament to go to. It’s one of the biggest ones and one of the toughest to win.”

Jess Heart led the Plainzmen with 20 points.

In the women’s title match, Mystee Dale scored a team-high 15 points as the Lady Ballers edged New Mexico’s ABC. The Lady Ballers’ victory was aided by Chantay Frazier (10 points), Jenna Plumley (9 points) and Katie Plumley (8 points).

ABC’s Ashley Mitchell was unstoppable from beyond the arc. She made seven 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 31 points in one of the tournament’s top performances.

Despite the loss, ABC departed in good spirits.

“Big ups to the Huggins family for a great tourney once again,” ABC’s Autumn Monteau-Nabors wrote on her Facebook page.

Copy editor Kevin Johnson contributed to this report.

 

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Aaron Tommie
Aaron has worked for the Tribe since 2015. He is inspired by people who are selfless, humble, and motivated. His family is the most important aspect of his life and is a die hard fan of the Los Angeles Lakers. He came to work for the Tribe to show his appreciation to his ancestors for the blessings Tribal citizens receive based on their foresight and the sacrifices they made. He loves mysteries and conspiracy theories and is a huge on a great story line or plot in something that is supposed to entertain him.
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