DHS senior named one of ten best Native college prospects

Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Recently in July it was announced that former Ignacio High School basketball player Hilda Garcia, now about to begin her senior year at Durango, had received quite a unique off-season honor.

Following the Global Elite Sports Association/RezBall Affiliate Native American Top 50 Basketball Combine & Camp, presented June 29-July 2 by Adidas and D1 Nation. D1 Nation online publisher and Adidas grassroots-hoops consultant, Max Ivany evaluated Garcia as the event’s ninth-best college-capable talent.

“Let me tell you, it was an experience,” Hilda Garcia recalled Wednesday afternoon. “I’m so thankful and grateful. I met a lot of great players, and there was a lot of different coaches – a former NBA player [guard Milt Palacio; Vancouver/Phoenix/Cleveland/Toronto/Utah], former WNBA player [guard Angel Goodrich; Tulsa/Seattle], a D-I college coach, a junior-college coach – and techniques.”

“It was breathtaking, honestly, because I just love basketball,” Garcia said.

Only 25 girls, along with an equal number of boys, were chosen for the event, and each had to be nominated to apply by her respective high school coach, athletic director, or AAU club coach.

“It was a tough all-day selection process to choose all of these talented Native American athletes,” GESA founder Derrick Stevens, who played at Colorado State University, said in a pre-camp statement. “We feel we have the best available talent out there in Indian Country that will benefit from some of the best coaches and trainers in the business.”

“Derrick … made it to where it was like college,” said Garcia, Diné and a Navajo Nation representative. “We had to be up and ready by five o’clock in the morning, then do our first workout. We then went to breakfast, to the gym, then to lunch, the classroom, back to the gym … Didn’t finish until 11 o’clock at night. It was intense, but I liked it,” she said.

“The recruiting landscape is dynamic and ever-changing,” said Ivany in his opening remarks on the D1 Nation website. “The prospect has the opportunity to change the perception of their place in the recruiting stratosphere by increasing their commitment, desire and level of training.”

“Prospect rankings in any sport that involves young athletes … are subjective and a snapshot in time,” Ivany said.

Rated #1 at the Top 50, held at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., was 4A Broken Bow, Oklahoma’s 6’5” senior post Aspen Williston (Choctaw Nation), a teammate of Garcia and others – including fifth-rated MacKenzie Kinsel – on the Native All-Star Select ‘Blue’ team which defeated the ‘Red’ 74-63 in a camp-concluding showdown.

“Coming from a small town and having such an opportunity to see how they play, the competition, it was an eye-opener for me,” Garcia said. Garcia believed she’d scored ‘about six points’ in the feature upon Oneida Nation of Wisconsin Court within Tony Coffin Sports Complex. “Made me more determined and ready,” she said.

“Garcia is similar to Kinsel,” stated Ivany, comparing Garcia to the Navajo Nation-representing guard, about to start her senior year at 5A Desert Edge High in Goodyear, Ariz., after averaging 12.6 points per game and helping the Lady Scorpions achieve a 21-8 overall (10-0 Desert West League) record in 2016-17.

“Kinsel started slow but she began to grow on me, everyday at camp. She just keeps plugging away. It all came together in the all-star game as she filled the lane on the break and had 15 (points).”

“She was a ‘quiet’ player,” Garcia recalled. “We worked good together, we had the same chemistry and could read what we each were going to do.”

“They were very similar in build and skill set,” concurred Ivany, who has personally coached over 120 Division I players. “Garcia just needs to assert herself more often.”

And with DHS standout guard Katrina Chandler having graduated and committed to D-II Colorado Mesa in Grand Junction, she’ll have to in order to keep the Lady Demons strong in the 4A/5A Southwestern League.

“They really emphasized how to be a smart player, and it’s going to help me because we’ve got a lot of young players on my team. So I’m going to be ‘taking the lead,’ if you know what I mean,” Chandler said.

Durango went 17-8 overall, 6-2 in the SWL this past winter, and reached the Class 4A State Tournament’s ‘Sweet 16’ phase with Chandler averaging a reported 15.4 points per game and Garcia 9.7 after sitting out the early portion of the season due to CHSAA rules after transferring from IHS.

“It’s going to help me a lot,” said Garcia. “I was thinking about … things that the coaches said, and we’re going to have a great season. It’s going to be a challenge, but I think we’ll be fine.”

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