By: Stefan Curtis Jones
Photo Provided by UCI Athletics
When he’s not grabbing boards or drop stepping on opponents in the paint, UCI Men’s Basketball redshirt junior center Brad Greene is focused on helping fellow Native Americans realize that they can pursue collegiate sports and higher education.
“They don’t have confidence that they can get into college based on grades, background or where they come from,” said Brad Greene when describing the concerns that Native American high schoolers have when considering college.
In the Native American community, sports aren’t widely emphasized or spoken about among families. It can be daunting for them to consider life outside of the reservation or their hometown, and this usually leads to many doubts and feelings of distress. However, Greene has mitigated this by speaking to younger Natives at the Native American Basketball Invitational.
“There is a disconnect from being a student and being in the Native American community,” said Greene as he detailed the issues that these Native youth face.
Greene continues to stress that he wants to reassure these kids that college can be huge for preparing them for bigger things and giving them a platform to succeed. He does this by encouraging them to participate in sports. Greene explained that for many Natives, leaving home essentially feels like leaving family. He wants to change this narrative by helping them understand that playing sports and getting a college education can mold them into well-rounded individuals that have the ability to give back to their families. More specifically, he noted that branching out from the roots of their home can help them become more comfortable in a different environment.
“Traveling for sports really helped me. When I was growing up, I played baseball a lot. I was having to leave home and travel around, so I built a base with that. As I got into basketball, I traveled into a whole new area, a whole new set of people,” said Greene when thinking back on whether or not he experienced culture shock after leaving his home in Lone Pine, CA.
Greene mentioned that his history in traveling for sports made acclimating to new cultures and unfamiliar faces much easier than if he were to go straight to college with no prior athletic background. Greene understands that homesickness is another major worry, but he hopes that his stories surrounding sports will ease the nerves of the young Natives he helps.
“There’s a lot of programs out there that tutor or help Native Americans pass in high school, but I personally feel like there’s been no tools that say ‘this is what you’re going to experience in college, this is how college is going to be, this is how to be the most successful in college’ so I want to get in that aspect early with children; most likely elementary school or middle school,” said Greene when elaborating on his life after college.
While Greene has indicated that he intends on playing basketball professionally, he has not abandoned his main goal of helping Native American kids that were once in his position. Greene recognizes that the youth are the most impressionable and he wants to take advantage of that in a positive way. The strides Greene makes at garnering more interest in collegiate sports and higher education among Native American children could quite possibly change the trajectory of their lives.