Sacred Hoops Classic aims to build relationships between Native American, non-Native teams
The Corn Palace will host the Sacred Hoops Classic on Jan. 4, 2020.
A basketball classic coming to the Corn Palace is about more than basketball.
The Sacred Hoops Classic is Jan. 4, 2020 in Mitchell and it will feature 18 high school boys and girls teams playing nine games throughout the day.
While a full day of basketball is nothing new to the iconic venue, the Sacred Hoops Classic will be the first of its kind.
"We are bringing programs from the reservation and looking to pair them up against teams and programs from outside of the reservation,” Sacred Hoops Director Allan Bertram said. “To try to bring not just the level of understanding culturally, but more importantly to try to break some stereotypes and hopefully building some relationships between those programs.”
The classic will pit teams -- Native American and non-Native American -- from across the state that normally wouldn’t play each during the regular season. Bertram envisions it bridging the gap between schools from different cultural backgrounds, while also aiding with scheduling in the future.
“It’s almost impossible if you are from Pine Ridge and Red Cloud to get a Madison or a Lennox or somebody over east to come out and play you at your location,” Bertram said. “A lot of the coaches and AD’s at those places that I talked to, they struggle scheduling-wise because they can’t get teams to go play them.”
Seventeen of the 18 teams are committed, while Bertram expects the final team to be finalized soon. The boys teams committed include: West Central, Madison, Parkston, Kimball/White Lake, Winner, Dell Rapids St. Mary, Red Cloud, Pine Ridge, Crow Creek and Lower Brule. The girls teams committed include: Madison, West Central, Kimball/White Lake, Pine Ridge, Red Cloud, Lower Brule and Crow Creek.
There will be five boys games and four girls games. The pairings will be set at a later date as Bertram envisions matching up teams with similar skill level, while also allowing teams to showcase their brand of basketball.
“It helps you prepare for postseason basketball because you are on a neutral location against good teams and it forces you to play different styles, too,” Bertram said. “When you get out and venture away from where your area it forces you to see different ways to play and that’s what you are going to have to do when you get to a state tournament anyway. Because you are seeing teams from all over South Dakota.”
Last season, a Sacred Hoops Classic was held at Lower Brule and Crow Creek High Schools. However, that classic was exclusively Native American teams playing against each other. That same event will be held again at both sites on Feb. 15, 2020.
When deciding on a venue for the new Sacred Hoops Classic, Bertram said the Corn Palace was an obvious choice. The Corn Palace already hosts the Hoop City Classic, Hanson Classic and the Dakota Wesleyan University Classic during the prep basketball season. Mitchell also sits along Interstate 90 and it serves as a centralized location for the teams.
“It just makes sense to do it in Mitchell,” Bertram said. “You have a great location on the interstate and one of the best facilities and coolest basketball facilities in the entire country.”
Sacred Hoops is a basketball academy that provides opportunities for players across the entire state and it brings the training to them. It averages around 1,000 high school athletes a week and will conduct more than 120 high school workouts around the state this month alone. The academy works with seven-to-eight programs per day during the summer. Sacred Hoops also has 57 summer basketball teams across the state.
“We have about 570 kids playing for us and then just a ton of high school programs that we are traveling to help their coaches and their kids get better in the offseason,” Bertram said.