Braxton Redeagle and his friend Christien Crynes have seen a lot of basketball talent go to waste.
They have watched some of their teammates make bad decisions and others give up positive opportunities.
“We had a friend in high school who played basketball but now is in jail for certain mistakes that he made,” Redeagle said. “We know people from the Tulsa area who are friends, who didn’t amount to what we know they could have, all they needed was hopefully someone doing what we’re trying to do now.”
Two years ago, Redeagle and Crynes decided to start the traveling basketball team Oklahoma Assault with high school basketball players, hoping to get them exposed to college coaches, while providing them with tools to prepare them for college.
Redeagle, Osage, is a 20-year-old psychology major at the University of Oklahoma and Crynes is a 21-year-old student at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. The two at some point played basketball with and against each other and kept in touch after high school.
Redeagle said after talking basketball one day the two of them decided to take it a step further.
“We’re a lot alike in our thinking,” Redeagle said. “We really enjoy it (basketball), it’s what we’re interested in, it’s pretty easy to do something you like doing, we both play basketball all the time.”
It was March of last year when they decided to start looking for guys to play on the team. They looked in Osage county and eventually in the Tulsa area.
Redeagle said at first he was just looking to start a basketball team because his younger brother was in high school and he wanted to coach him.
The first team was a 17-and-under team with about 10 players. The team played from the moment their school let out for the summer to the beginning of the next school year.
In the first year Redeagle and Crynes used every contact they had in their books. They called old coaches to use high school gyms for practice and called people they knew for information on tournaments.
Crynes got his mother on board to help the players with college preparations as she made a living out of preparing high school students for college.
The team played in NCAA certified tournaments and tournaments in the Mid American Youth Basketball league.
Since both Redeagle and Crynes are college students the money to run their program came from local businesses, their parents, fundraisers, friends, family and a recent sponsorship from Osage Casinos.
The sponsorship bought the team new jerseys with the casino logo embedded on them.
So far the team has traveled in tournaments in Edmond, the Tulsa area, Bixby and Wichita, Kan.
At the end of the first summer Redeagle said they were happy to see that what started out as a basketball team turned into something that could help high school basketball players.
“The first summer was pretty smooth, we don’t even know how we came together and played so easily,” Redeagle said. “We were just amazed at the time how two 20-year-old guys could take a group of high school guys and take them around like that, and be able to have control and to have everything work out the way it did.”
Jamison Cass, 18, was one of the players on the first team.
Cass said he was just looking to get some experience playing against competitive teams.
“They opened it up to get looks for people who were getting overlooked,” Cass said. “The program itself allows you to get more than just play basketball, they do a lot more than play basketball.”
Cass said the College Game Plan created by Crynes was most beneficial to him. The Game Plan was a guide with workshops to help the players. He said although he decided to not play college basketball he is instead a freshman at Rogers State University in Claremore.
Which is really all Redeagle and Crynes could ask for.
“The whole point of what we’re doing is to work with high school kids and help them find the opportunities that are available where they can succeed and do the best that they can,” Redeagle said. “We have this mind set of where if we can take some youth and help them improve their lives they can in return improve their community. That’s our outlook on it because most of the people that play on our team are from rougher backgrounds.”
This year Redeagle and Crynes added another team to their program. They had both a 17-and-under and a 16-and-under boy’s team.
Although the focus was get exposure for Native American basketball players, Redeagle and Crynes opened it up to any talented players in the area looking to get noticed.
This year there were Cherokee players form Sequoya, Creeks from Muskogee and two Osages including Redeagle’s brother Cade Redeagle.
“It’s hard to find guys who are Native American with that kind of talent who will stay in the program,” Redeagle said. “Some have to work for their family and some have their own reason that they couldn’t play anymore.”
And others come from rough areas, from the rougher spots in Tulsa.
Even though the second season is over, the work continues for both Redeagle and Crynes.
For the past two years the two have spent countless hours on the phone or talking on Skype, planning for the next season.
“We spent a lot of time on it, pretty much every day,” Redeagle said. “I spend more time working on the program than I do my homework.”
But at the end of the day, once all the marketing calls have been made for sponsorships, Redeagle said the two are reminded of the good they’re trying to do.
He said he realizes that the program might not be for everyone but it doesn’t keep he and Crynes from trying.
“It doesn’t work for everybody but overall it makes an improvement on all different levels, they know someone’s there for them and the grades do get better. I think it’s just a lot of lifestyle changes and things that they do, we’re the only real positive influence they have in their lives,” Redeagle said. “What we get in return is just that satisfaction, seeing things come together and knowing that we did what we could to help somebody else, I think that’s pretty much all we’re looking for.”