Red Lake plays for lost teammate at state basketball tournament

March is high-school tournament time in Minnesota, as you probably know. It’s a time when most of the attention around here will go to the metro-area public and private sports dynasties. Good for them and good luck to them.

But there’s always at least one team that’s a little easier to root for.

aaron_whiteThis year, it’s Red Lake and the Bemidji Pioneer explains why. The coach’s son — Aaron White, 15 (his Ojibwe name was “Misko giigik”) — died of cancer on November 1, just a few days before the start of the season.

“The loss of my son has brought them even closer together,” Roger White tells the paper. “They really cheer each other off and on the court and hang out with each other off and on the court, so that makes a difference in our team chemistry. And I’ve kept motivated through these boys.”

These boys are inspiring because they’re inspired.

“Every practice we go out there and give it our all, because in practice he gave it his all,” senior forward Jeremy Martin said. “Every game, every possession, whatever happened, he gave it his all.”

Aaron White wasn’t a star player. He only played in five games last year.

“Aaron was always there, he was always the loudest, and he always put up challenges for us to do,” junior guard Rob McClain said. “He was energetic. He was the most amazing kid you could ever have as a friend and family member.”

“Basketball is more than a game for many at Red Lake,” former player Dalton Walker writes on the Star Tribune. “It’s a cherished outlet. It’s a part of reservation life the entire year. Young boys and girls start playing at an early age and work hard to be part of the basketball tradition.”

The Red Lake Warriors will player Browerville-Eagle Valley at Williams Arena today at 1. The school district canceled classes today and tomorrow.