Coach Chris Jones, Sonny West, TaDyn Walker, Jordan Leetka, Kason Walker, Gaylen Leetka, Noah Jones, Chris Harjo, Cayman Watkins, Hunter Simpson and Coach Gary Walker.
Published July 22, 2018
PHOENIX — The summer after graduating from Stonewall High School, 19-year-old Chickasaw citizen Cayman Watkins found himself competing in an international basketball tournament in Arizona alongside his Oklahoma Tushka teammates.
Watkins was well-prepared for the challenge.
He was a four-year starter on both the varsity basketball and baseball teams for Stonewall. He was named to both the Native American All-State basketball and baseball teams. He holds the all-time scoring record for Stonewall High School and was named All-Conference for four years.
Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole, Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Apache, Ho Chunk, Kiowa and Ohkay Owingeh athletes comprised Watkin’s team of Native American ballers going head-to-head with other Native teams from across the globe during the 16th Annual Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI), July 8-14.
Teams hailed from Alaska, Arizona, California, Canada, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, New Zealand, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Washington.
“Being able to represent my tribe and my family and compete with the best Native athletes in the country was an honor,” Watkins said.
Two of the many athletes in the tournament were hand-picked by the NABI Foundation Board of Directors–one male and one female–to be awarded a $20,000 college scholarship. Their decision is based on the student’s academic performance.
Watkins claimed the boys 2018 NABI College Scholarship.
“It was a huge honor and blessing to be chosen for the scholarship,” Watkins said. “I credit God and my family for helping me be a confident, successful person.”
His earning the scholarship can also be traced back to years of stellar scholarly work. Watkins was class valedictorian and senior class president. He is a National Honor Society member and made First Team of the Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association Academic All State. He scored a 31 on the ACT and maintained a 3.96 GPA.
“Growing up Chickasaw, education and community involvement have always been the forefront of who I am and who we are as a people.”
He said there is no better way for a tribe to continue to grow and flourish than to educate its people. And in this regard, Watkins credits Gov. Anoatubby for doing an incredible job promoting education among the Chickasaw people.
The NABI scholarship will prove useful as Watkins shifts his athletic and academic endeavors to Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU) in Bartlesville.
He said he just wants to play the game as long as he can and he knows with the education he’s pursuing he will be successful with any path he chooses to take.
“It is a huge blessing being Chickasaw,” Watkins said. “From healthcare to education to wellness there’s no aspect of life that they don’t help to improve. The Chickasaw Nation has played and will continue to play a vital role in my success.”