She’s quiet at first, but not shy. Once she warms up to you, she’s very approachable and has a contagious smile. But on the basketball court she is tenacious, and not afraid of sacrificing her body for the ball. She’s a leader and scholar. And she’s no stranger to Au-Authm Action News. Her name is Briana Kewanwytewa, and she’s a junior at Salt River High School. She has been invited to compete in the Down Under Sports Tournament, which takes place in various venues along the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia in July.
Teams from across the United States and Australia travel to participate in the tournament every summer. Kewanwytewa will be playing for the West Central Conference Girls Team and embark on a cultural exchange as part of the experience.
Kewanwytewa, No. 22 and a guard for the SRHS Lady Eagles, finished this season with 343 points, ranking her No. 33 among high school players in the state of Arizona. Other stats for the 2012–13 season include 148 total rebounds, 46 assists and 74 steals.
Despite the impressive numbers on the court, Kewanwytewa can graduate as early as this year if she wishes; however, her friends—and a good chance of repeating for the title in her senior year—keep her here.
But she doesn’t stop there. Kewanwytewa takes college courses at Scottsdale Community College, currently English 102, all while sustaining a 3.5 GPA and serving as the student body president for SRHS. This fall she will continue taking college courses, including math. Kewanwytewa’s overall goal is to graduate from college with a sports medicine degree.
Within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Kewanwytewa is often referred to as a role model for the youth here. On a regular basis, she visits the Lehi gym, where she engages in pickup games with the children and works hard to improve her fundamentals.
Her mentor, Kyronna Roanhorse, said, “The kids love when she comes and plays the game with them. Everyone wants her on their team.” Roanhorse is a volleyball coach for SRHS and is assisting Kewanwytewa with year-round preparation for both college and college basketball. Roanhorse expressed how thankful she is to be giving back to the Community, something she said has been a longtime passion of hers while working at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center in Phoenix.
This year marks the 25th year of the Down Under Sports Tournament in Australia. Coach Shawn Lytle took it upon himself to nominate several of the girls from this year’s Lady Eagles team to participate in the tournament, but because the others had prior engagements, Kewanwytewa is the only one from the team who will be able to attend—once she raises enough money.
Part of the experience is to have the athletes go out and find sponsorships so they can embark on this once-in-a-lifetime trip. Each athlete must raise $5,000 before the end of June. There are several ways to do so, and Kewanwytewa’s family has arranged car washes and raffle drawings as fundraisers.
“This [Australia tournament] is a trip of a lifetime, and I am looking to bring what I learned and [my] experience to my senior year,” said Kewanwytewa. “I have traveled to Oregon and other places before, but not outside of the country, or by myself. I am looking forward to this experience, and I would like to thank everyone in the Community for their support and contributions. It means a lot to me and my family.”
Those interested in helping to sponsor Kewanwytewa’s trip may visit www.downundersports.com, click the “Sponsor Athlete” button at the top, and from there follow the directions to sponsor Kewanwytewa. Everyone who sponsors her will be entered into a drawing for a trip to Hawaii and Australia for two. To learn more about how you can help her raise money, call Kewanwytewa’s mom Cheryl Kewanwytewa, at (480) 628-4038, or her mentor, Kyronna Roanhorse, at (602) 425-0810.