As she writes here:
The Jayhawks work on a practice court in a facility so new the smell of fresh paint still fills the air. The court is part of a $42 million renovation/addition to venerable Allen Fieldhouse, a renovation that’s added concourse space for the fans and a tricked-out locker room and suite for the players. A wall of flat-screen televisions greet the Jayhawks in their team room to allow for multiple-game viewing, and the leather recliners are straight out of Archie Bunker’s fantasy world.
At Haskell, meanwhile, players had been evicted from their court the day she visited to make way for an H1N1 flu clinic. On the plus side, the team now has its own locker room, with hand-me-down lockers from KU’s football team.
“We didn’t even change in here before,” forward Kevin Begaye, who is Navajo, tells her. “We’d come to practice or games already dressed.”
Haskell Athletic director and coach Ted Juneau is mindful of a far more crucial difference between the two programs:
There is a gulf of opportunity dividing the two with unsparing cruelty.
The kids wearing Jayhawks blue have been seasoned and scouted since they were preteens. With high schools versed in the language of NCAA eligibility and summer-league teams crisscrossing the country so they can showcase their skills, these kids have been given every chance to make it to college.
The players at Haskell are the rarity, the handful of kids who actually have graduated high school (the dropout rate on reservations is 40.7 percent), let alone made it to college.
As for basketball, they also have played the game their whole lives but they have played in a hoops black hole. College coaches don’t even look for them, let alone watch them.
“”In some ways,” Juneau tells O’Neil, “it mirrors what’s happened to Natives in this country. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they try to join the general population, they encounter problems and discrimination. If they stay on the reservation, what is there for them there?”