by Travis Bledsoe

For those of you that know me, welcome back. And for anyone who is just tuning in, my name is Travis Bledsoe, and this is my Journey to the NBA.

The last time we spoke, I had finished up my D-League National Tryout in Chicago. It seems like forever since I had the excitement and opportunity to play in front of NBA D-League scouts, coaches and personnel. When I got the message from the D-League office that I was invited to take part in individual team tryouts/workouts, I was very grateful.

No, I don’t get to sign the D-League player contract quite yet (you didn’t think it would be that easy did you?), but it’s within grasp. I live to play another day. This time I will be getting a closer evaluation, in a team setting, with a D-League coaching staff and maybe the front office. Who knows—if I play well enough, I’ll be able to take part in a D-League training camp (that’s when it gets real interesting).

But let us not get ahead of ourselves. First thing’s first… What team should I tryout for in hopes of making a NBA D-League roster? Let’s take a quick basketball IQ test. I will provide the question and the answer for this one.

Try to name all 16 D-League Teams and their NBA affiliates? (Not in any particular order:)

Erie Bayhawks- Knicks
Canton Charge-
Cavs
Fort Wayne Mad Ants-
Pistons, Pacers, Bucks
Iowa Energy-
Bulls, Hornets, Wizards
Maine Red Claws-
Celtics
Sioux Falls Skyforce-
Heat, Timberwolves, Magic
Springfield Armor-
Nets
Austin Toros-
Spurs
Bakersfield Jam-
Clippers, Suns, Raptors
Idaho Stampede-
Blazers
Los Angeles D-Fenders-
Lakers
Reno Bighorns-
Hawks, Grizzles, Kings
Rio Grade Valley Vipers-
Rockets
Texas Legends-
Mavericks
Tulsa 66ers-
Thunder
Santa Cruz Warriors (formerly Dakota Wizards)-
Warriors

I know, I couldn’t do it either, but just looking at the list of D-League teams and their NBA affiliates gives you a better understanding for how close a D-League player truly is to achieving a lifelong dream of becoming a NBA player.

Take a look at the 2012 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. There are 134 D-League alumni playing, some on NBA summer league teams, a select few on the D-League’s own summer league team. All are getting a chance to impress NBA scouts, coaches and front office personnel in hopes of making a team’s training camp and possibly grabbing a spot on an NBA roster.

This is part of the reason why the D-League is one of the hardest leagues to get into. Yes, I have my work cut out for me, but I am truly blessed to have another opportunity to showcase my basketball skills, my IQ and my toughness.

The two teams I have my sights on working out for are the Iowa Energy and the Sioux Falls Skyforce. I’ve had a longstanding basketball history with the state of South Dakota. Along with battling the University of South Dakota Coyotes since the good old Division II days of the NCC (North Central Conference), I also tussled with rival Augustana College of Sioux Falls, South Dakota as a member of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

I will always remember how “jacked up” we would be to play in the Sioux Falls Arena (home court of the D-League’s Skyforce). It was the only arena in the NCC that had the official NBA three-point line, so that added even more excitement for shooters who wanted to prove they had the range. I had some of my best games against South Dakota (including a 27-point performance at the Ralph Engelstad), but there is one thing that stood out the most: I’ve always admired how passionate the fans were for basketball in South Dakota.

Of course, playing for North Dakota, I got an up-close and personal experience of that passion for four years. Despite being on the opposite side of the cheering, chants, and heckles (fans used to call me Bob Marley because of the dreads), it’s always great to play in intense environments even if you are away from home. It’s because of this that I would love to play on the other side of the “border battle” between North and South Dakota.

But the main reason it would be an honor to play for the Skyforce is a very personal one. It’s because of the name that lies in the city of Sioux Falls.

Sioux is more than just a word or a name to me. I left North Dakota with “Sioux” literally tatted on my body. So when I hear or see the name “Sioux,” the things that come to my mind are: pride, honor, courage, determination, fortitude, generosity, wisdom, kinship.

Sioux is a nation, a people, a legacy that can never be destroyed. The name might be gone from the future of North Dakota athletics, but I will always carry it and everything it stands for, as one of “the last Sioux” still standing strong and representing a nation not forgotten.

This passion has led me to create The Last Sioux Foundation. It is currently in its start-up phase, but when it’s all said and done, I hope foundation will be able to bring top-notch basketball camps/clinics to Native American reservations across the United States and provide kids with basketball equipment (shoes, basketballs, jerseys), skilled coaching, guest speakers (Phil Jackson would be great) and other resources that will help them succeed on and off the court. I also want to bring awareness to the many Native American issues plaguing reservations and how we can help spread equality through basketball.

My fight is not about the name change that has occurred at the University of North Dakota (it’s 2012 and the Fighting Sioux is no more). I believe everything happens for a reason. What I do fight for is the Great Sioux Nation and its people.

From the elderly to the youth, we can help the people who need it the most in this time of change. So let’s turn our attention away from the politics surrounding the issue and direct it toward all Native Americans in a positive way.

Let’s keep the “Fighting Sioux” spirit alive.

Before I go, I have a few questions to ask. You can leave your answers in the comments or it can just be food for thought:

1) If you could play for any NBA D-League team (teams listed above), what team would it be? And why?

2) Who is your favorite D-League player?

3) What do you think about bringing basketball to Native American reservations across North America? Do you think it can help change lives?

Feel free to leave any other questions or comments.

Until next time,
Travis Bledsoe