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Thunder hosts tribal colleges basketball tournament

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College will host 19 college basketball teams this weekend in the 32nd Annual American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) national tournament.

College spokesman Tom Urbanski said the event is a sort of national championship for tribal colleges. The event is drawing over 250 players and staff from around the country, according to FDLTCC Athletic Director Keith Turner.

"This is an event that you have to apply to host, and President (Dr. Larry) Anderson did that," Turner said. "We were lucky enough to get it."

Tournament organizer Laura Sylvester noted that 11 men's teams and eight women's teams (including both squads from FDLTCC) are entered.

"Each team will get at least three games in pool play," she added. "There will be plenty of basketball for everybody."

Turner said teams from tribal colleges representing Wyoming, New Mexico and the Dakotas are entered and the event gives the school a chance to show off.

"It's a great opportunity," Turner said. "People get to see the college and it's a chance to show off what we have on this side of the country as far as tribal colleges go. It gives higher education people a chance to look at what we have going on."

Turner added that the only prerequisite for play is for a school to inform the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) that the tournament will replace any other post-season play the school may have


Sylvester noted that a lot of paperwork also goes into the event.

"We have to get out information on the event and work with the schools on (student) transcripts and eligibility guidelines," she said. "It's a lot of organizing but it's a very good tournament for us."

Pool play began March 13 with the final games scheduled for March 17. Some pool games will be played at Fond du Lac Ojibwe high school but all final tournament games will be played at the college.

"It'll be a beneficial event for the community," Sylvester said. "We're getting people in from out of state to see what Cloquet has to offer, and our college specifically. They're staying in our hotels and eating in our restaurants too."