Bacone presents an unexpected big IHS opportunity
She was never asked to be the star, except that her coaches at Ignacio High School simply asked her to be, well, whatever.
It’s no surprise, then, that Kabir committed Thursday to continuing her college athletic days that only four years ago she had to do practically, well, anything just to stay “in the game.”
Athletic, the school excluded many sports, academically removed faculty, and sold property.
However, given the opportunity, Cruz chose to sign a letter of intent to study at Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma, on Thursday before family, friends, IHS staff and others.
“Well, Coach Damon (White Thunder, Bobcat Boys’ Assistant) gave me this really good opportunity,” she said, thrilled to take the next step most opponents and fans didn’t expect. “He knows how much I love sports and how much I love basketball, so I took it, you know?”
Cruz continued, “There were trials for the boys’ team, and I was personally invited by the girls’ coach to come play and try.” “This is how it went! I just happened to be at the perfect time.”
“Alicia, she came out smiling, shaking hands… real friendly,” recalls Robin Littlehead, Beacon men’s basketball coach, who traveled to IHS Gymnasium for the occasion. “Really stylish, and positive…what I’m looking for is not just me but a women’s coach – Coach Baker -: positive mindset, hard work ethic, and being a good and adaptable student-athlete.”
After helping volleyball team Shasta Pontine finish 19-8 and reach the CHSAA Class 2A State Championships, primarily CC-related Alexis Pontine supported McCook (Neb.), then Tony Gomez’s crew helped new basketball captain Lady Bobcat, Going 11-11 at 2021-22 and reaching the 2A-Region VIII semi-finals, Cruz would be a good fit for a needy Bacon group.
“She didn’t quit,” Gomez said of Cruz (2.0 points, 1.4 rebounds per game). “It fights, it grinds, it competes.”
The Lady Warriors finished a truncated 2020-21 season standing 8-9 overall, before Terra Jay promoted Connie Baker to head coach in March 2021. He was appointed as Bacon’s sporting director in March, and Connie Baker’s first official crew finished 1-24, toppling Moore , Oklahoma-based Randall University 78-67 at Champion Christian College Classic in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
BC did not qualify for the eight-team CAC Championship, which was held from February 25-27 in Pleasant Hope, Iowa.
Having achieved success at IHS, Cruz noted his passion for applying it not only as a female warrior on court, but one time from her while attending Oklahoma’s oldest institution of higher learning. Bacon’s founding in 1880 preceded the state’s creation by about 27 years, but the school had to be effectively bailed out in 2019 by several Native American tribes who agreed to its charter, and in late February finally returned to full Higher Education Commission accreditation status.
“I think it was a really good experience,” she said, summing up her sporting year, which also saw her wear for a few games with Lady Bobcat Soccer, another sport offered by BC. “Especially as I was in my senior year – the last time I was in a Bobcat – to have a really good team and good emotional support from my family and friends.”
“I definitely know a few options (which) I’d like to choose from,” she said, discussing possible classroom endeavors. “From now on I will be going for my general studies, but some options would be law, dental health or business. I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, start my own business and give back to my community.”
“All of our student-athletes, when they come to Beacon, become family members,” Little Head said. “We are a small private school, and that’s exactly what you get: family. In a classroom, the class size ratio is about 10 to 1, and 11 to 1, so you get to know your professor on a first name basis, and focus on the details.”
Cruz appreciated everyone who helped her on her journey, especially her mother Daisy Blue Star and many of her coaches.
“They helped me a lot, to see who I am – and if I wanted to play this sport,” she said. “He’s been so emotional to know about, like, all the tough things that come my way, but they’ve guided me. I’d like to say thank you to Damon. He’s like my older brother. And to (IHS girls basketball assistant) Avi (on) Gomez for being my sister.”
“I really want to thank (IHS Girls basketball assistant) Travis Nanaito for helping me,” Cruz added. “He’s a great coach – he never gave up on me and never judged me – and he was always there when I wanted to shoot in the gym after a workout.”
“I know the coach is very happy that she is able to gain another positive factor,” Little Head said. “It’s about the attitude – I had a positive attitude and good work ethic towards a selfish, talented, cocky player – and that’s just common sense, right? The coach wanted me to make it clear that she was very happy that Alicia decided to commit!”
“I signed the paper, something I never thought I would do; I am so grateful for that,” Cruz said. It’s a dream come true.”