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Tru Billie makes history as first women’s basketball signee at California Tribal College – The Tri-City Record

Tru Billie makes history as first women’s basketball signee at California Tribal College – The Tri-City Record
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Navajo Prep graduate, fresh off her second Class 3A state title, hopes to excel at next level

Navajo Prep’s Tru Billie dribbles by Tohatchi’s Crra Cecil on the baseline and drives to the basket in the fourth quarter during the District 1-3A tournament championship game on March 2 at Tohatchi High School. (Curtis Ray Benally/Turkeyboy Photography)

Curtis Ray Benally

FARMINGTON – Tru Billie, who recently wrapped up her senior year guiding the Navajo Prep girls basketball team to a Class 3A state title, is ready to make a little history of her own.

A two-time state champion in high school basketball, Billie is the first signee to California Tribal College’s women’s basketball team. Billie formally signed her letter of intent on Friday afternoon.

Billie, who also competed in volleyball and track and field at Navajo Prep, was one of two players on the Eagles girls basketball team to win state championships in both her freshman and senior seasons. The other was Aniya Johnson, who signed with New Mexico Highlands University last month.

Billie credits her Eagles coach Rainy Crisp for not only leading Navajo Prep to a championship this past season, but also for the encouragement and desire she brought to the sideline.

“She made us all be accountable to each other,” Billie said of Crisp. “She taught us all to work harder and to work together for our goals.”

California Tribal College is one of three emerging tribal colleges in the state. The college has been an initiative 13 years in the making, according to Thomas Lozano, the school’s deputy executive director.

Navajo Prep’s Tru Billie is fouled on the arm by Bloomfield’s Lyssea Mescal as she attempts a layup in the second quarter on Jan. 11 at Bobcat Gym. (Curtis Ray Benally/Turkeyboy Photography)

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Curtis Ray Benally

The school will be located on the campus of California State University Sacramento. The partnership between the CSUS and the tribal college will provide postsecondary educational opportunities for Native and non-Native students.

A tribal college is a minority-institution centered on Native communities. According to Juliet Maestas, the school’s executive director, the school will focus on a curriculum based in cultural knowledge and degrees that support tribal sovereignty and Native communities.

Crisp, who has coached the Eagles to four state championships in girls basketball in her nearly 20 years on the job, believes Billie will be up to the challenge of competing at the next level.

“After falling short of a championship in her junior year, she worked even harder, stayed after practice, went to the gym during lunch and it all paid off,” Crisp said. “She’s a player who will put everything into the program and give it her all.”

The college has taken early steps to create its own athletics department, which will be headed by Robb Floco, who serves as the school’s athletic director and men’s basketball coach.

“Having someone with the high character and the exceptional skills that (Billie) brings to us is something we’re excited about having on the team and in the school,” Floco said. “In addition to her being a great role model as a student, she has the experience of being a part of a rich, winning program that we really are excited about having here.”

Floco was previously the men’s basketball coach at Navajo Technical University. He also had coaching stints at San Diego State, Grand Canyon University, North Dakota’s Wilson State College and Southwestern Assemblies of God American Indian College in Phoenix.

“(Floco) is really excited about starting a team there like he did at Navajo Tech, and so it was exciting to be a part of something new,” Billie said. “Honestly, being the first to sign to the school comes with a lot of bragging rights, but I also know it means the expectations are also high.”

Billie, who plans to study nursing at California Tribal College, is excited to showcase her skills, as well as the strength of her team on a large stage. The team is slated to play their home games at CSUS women’s basketball team’s home arena, which can seat more than 1,000 fans.

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“Knowing we’ll be playing in front of big crowds is exciting for me, and knowing it’s a Division I type facility for a Division II school means we’ll hopefully get a lot of eyes watching our games,” Billie said.





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