First basketball team in years for Navajo Mountain
by David Boyle
For the first time in years, Navajo Mountain High Jaguars are fielding a boys basketball team. The return of the team represents an exciting development for the rural San Juan County community.
Navajo Mountain High Athletic Director Chelsea Graymountain is coaching the team of nine boys as they play a 10-game junior varsity schedule this season.
With an average enrollment of 29 students over the past decade, having enough students to field a basketball team at Navajo Mountain High can be a challenge.
Coach Graymountain estimated this is the first time the school has fielded a team since 2017.
In addition to the challenge of getting enough numbers for a team, the Jaguars also have to travel a lot of miles to play games.
Their closest region opponent is a two-hour drive to Monument Valley.
Coach Graymountain says despite those challenges, they’re planning to play at least the next couple of years.
“There’s a lot of freshman and sophomores on the team and there are more coming up at the community school looking forward.”
Without playing organized basketball since pre-pandemic times, there are learning curves ahead for the Jaguars but they’ve been in the gym practicing since November.
Graymountain says she’s been working to build community excitement. “We’ve been holding a lot of movie nights, bingo, and volleyball games. Really here to support the Navajo Mountain Jaguars.”
In the fall, Graymountain coached a volleyball team for the school and likewise played a junior-varsity schedule.
On January 6 the Navajo Mountain boys basketball team made the three-and-a-half hour drive to Monticello to play their C-team.
While the Buckaroos earned the win, the Jaguars showed good fight against their region foe.
Community resident Ursula Smallcanyon made the trip to Monticello to watch her son, freshman Isaiah Atene, play. She says she’s glad for the team and her son to be back out on the court
“I’m happy for him to be playing with his friends for me that’s why we traveled this way to watch him and encourage him.”
Other fans in attendance include Navajo Mountain superfans Johnny and Susie Graymountain. The pair attend all Navajo Mountain sporting events and were there to cheer on their grandson Paul Begay.
Several other fans made the trip to watch the Jaguars play. While attending away games for Navajo Mountain fans requires a road warrior mentality, home games at the high school are a community event.
Smallcanyon reported that she’s heard from family in Page, AZ, and Gallup, NM who have called to find when Jaguar home games are scheduled. “They planning to make the drive out to those games.”
Monticello boys head basketball coach Josh Keyes echoed the sentiment, saying the Navajo Mountain community has a great love for basketball with huge crowds showing up to games with a festive attitude.
Starters at the January 6 game in Monticello include Isaiah Atene, Erec Neely, Paul Begay Reaksmei Neang, and Daryle Yellow.
Also contributing minutes to the Jaguars are Remy Nelson, Kayden Eddie, Riley Tomaisyo, and Cornelius Begay.
Navajo Mountain opened its season playing games in Shonto, Monticello, and Rock Point.
The Jaguar’s first home game is scheduled for Wednesday, January 18 at 5 pm. When Navajo Mountain will host Monument Valley.
Navajo Mountain plays next on January 24 at Whitehorse High, January 27 at Pinnacle Academy in Price, and January 28 at Green River High.
The Jaguar’s second home game is scheduled for Friday, February 3 at 4 p.m. when Navajo Mountain will host Monticello.
Navajo Mountain then plays at Monument Valley on February 9 before closing out the season at home, hosting Whitehorse on Tuesday, February 14 at 4 p.m.