Osages participate in Oklahoma Indian All-State Basketball

Kylie Johnson, Matthew Free and Ben Goodeagle will be representing the Osage Nation in another big way in June.

The three have been selected to the Annual Oklahoma Indian All-State Basketball Teams.

Johnson, a graduated senior at Woodland High School, was selected to the girl’s first team while Free and Goodeagle were selected for the boy’s first-team.

The three out of 48 boys and girls chosen (24 girls and 24 boys) were selected out of over 100 nominees throughout Oklahoma and a few surrounding states.

Free, a graduate of Pawhuska High School and four-year state golf qualifier said he was taken by surprise to hear of his being selected.

“It’s pretty neat to get picked for the first teams,” he said. “It’s kind of cool to be one of the only ones to be Osage playing in it.”

Johnson meddled in the 1A Oklahoma state track and field meet last month and Goodeagle was a part of the Woodland 2010 state football team.

Osage Dr. Joe Conner and his wife Dr. Carol Conner found the teams in 1996 through their Conner’s organizational and community psychology research firm.

Two basketball games take place at Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville where over 800 of Oklahoma high school athletes have taken part in the games.

Joe Conner said the games allow for students to be encouraged to further their education and to gain exposure by college recruiters.

“Our focus, No. 1, is to recognize Indian athletes around the state who often times are overlooked because they come from small schools in small rural communities,” Joe Conner said. “We try to get some attention for these players so we’ve managed to do that.”

Conner said many of the athletes who play in the games have been recruited to play for Division I and II colleges around the country.

The event lasts a day and a half. Students register on June 18 and play on June 18 at 6 p.m., starting with the girl’s game.

The athletes practice as a team the day they check in and attend an evening banquet with their parents.

Conner said past participants are often brought back as speakers. Some past Osage participants were Fred Beartrack and his brother Matt Beartrack from Fairfax.

“Many of those kids have gone onto college whether or not they played ball,” he said.

Conner himself was a basketball player who found little opportunity to play basketball after high school, which is what sparked the idea for the games.

He said there are also some academic all-state players on the team who have had a 3.5 or higher GPA.

Conner said he was happy to see that a couple of Osage athletes made the list, being Osage himself.

“It’s always good to see some Osages make it and it’s not every year but we’ve had quite a few Osages play in all state over the years,” Conner said.