Photos courtesy Masha Fehr
LEFT: Stanley Walking Jr., a senior at Oelrichs High School, takes a shot during the 2023 Lakota All Star Games on Saturday, April 29, in Rapid City. TOP: T’lea Rouillard, right, poses with her mom, T’mara Twiss, during the 2023 Lakota All Star Games. T’lea is a a senior at Oelrichs High School and second-generation all star. T’mara was a member of the 1994 Lakota All Star team, shown below, second from the right.
By Katie Merdanian
OELRICHS – Stanley Walking Jr. and T’lea Rouillard represented the Oelrichs Tigers basketball program at the 2023 Lakota All Star Games held at The Monument in Rapid City on Saturday, April 29. Some of the top high school and college basketball players from around the Midwest and Canada participated. Attendance surpassed all previous years.
“This is our biggest event so far in terms of numbers and the level of talent that will take the court,” said Lakota All Star Games Director, Dale Pine Jr. before the games. He explained, “I watched players from all over throughout the basketball season, in person and through livestream. I saw them at LNI (Lakota Nation Invitational).” He was then able to recruit the best players.
Walking played on Team Hehaka and Rouillard played on Team Anpo. Rouillard said she was excited and honored to have been asked to participate. Although both players said they were nervous before the game because they had only one practice, the teams played well together. Unfortunately, neither team went home with a win. At one point during the girls game, the announcer joked, “We may need to smudge those rims,” when the balls would not fall through.
Walking has been one of the best centers in the region this basketball season and recorded a triple double against Takini. He was one of the top five rebounders at the 2022 LNI tournament amongst all 24 teams. Rouillard has been playing for the girls basketball program since the 7th grade and has won multiple LNI all-tournament awards. Rouillard led her team to a first-round victory in regionals. Both played under the guidance of Coach James Knutson this season. Knutson feels the experience will be tremendous for them.
Pine said he coached Rouillard as a 7th grader and has watched her play through the years. He is impressed with her longevity as a point guard. Pine has known Walking since he was young and saw him play very well this season. He noted, even though Oelrichs is a small school, their basketball program is great.
When asked what plans they had after graduation, both Rouillard and Walking said they are going to college. Rouillard plans to go to Western Dakota Tech, and Walking hopes to play baseball while attending Dakota Wesleyan University. Both are on the Honor Roll and are talented in multiple sports.
Rouillard is a second-generation basketball all star. Her mother, T’mara Twiss, played on the original Lakota All Star team in 1994. Twiss holds the point record for Oelrichs girls basketball. Twiss said playing on the all star team was a high point for her, and it is neat that years later her daughter is doing the same. Twiss always told her, “you might be small, but you’re mighty.” She said watching Rouillard play was bittersweet because this was her last game before graduating.
Director Pine has been involved with the current Lakota All Star Games since its beginning. In 2018 then Oelrichs volleyball coach Jen Schumacher organized an all star volleyball event and invited area teams to play. Pine was inspired to keep it going with basketball, and in 2019 he brought schools together using the same blueprint. 2023 was the fourth year of the Lakota All Star Games, and the first with players from Oelrichs. “Originally, it was just high school boys and high school girls, and we’ve grown to add college games,” said Pine.
Twiss pointed out Team Anpo’s and Team Hehaka’s coach, Rol Bradford, is a good friend of her dad, Louis Twiss. Both are in their 80s and dedicated supporters of basketball. Twiss said, even though both her girls will be out of school, the family will continue to travel to watch her nieces, nephews, and friends’ kids play sports. It sounds like basketball is a family tradition.