By Makadegwanebiikwe Mikayla Schaaf
Mille Lacs Band member Brandon Nickaboine, a 17-year-old 11th grader, is shining on and off the court at Onamia High School. It is obvious that Panther Pride runs through and through this young man, who has earned a starting position on the varsity team at Onamia High School averaging 12 points per game. He also holds a 3.0 grade point average.
"A lot of my success at Onamia comes from the support of my friends and teachers," said Brandon. "Every day before class, I put my phone away and just concentrate on my work. I don’t even look at the clock. I use my study halls and downtime to get my homework done. My hardest class this year is chemistry but I have a B in that class, which makes me feel real good."
Brandon is proud to be tobacco, drug, and alcohol free. He is a member of the tobacco-free basketball league and the Native Thrive youth events, which strive to keep youth substance free through sports.
"Sports has saved my life. It keeps me motivated and out of trouble," Brandon said. "Instead of choosing to use, I would rather go to the DI Community Center or find a place I can go to play basketball."
Basketball is Brandon’s favorite sport, but he also played varsity baseball and football in 2018.
Pete Braith, Onamia’s JV and varsity assistant basketball coach, is impressed with Brandon’s work ethic: "Brandon is a great team player who has a high motor for the system that we run for basketball. He’s willing to work very hard and is always willing to be held accountable."
Brandon was also named Senior Brave for Onamia High School at the royalty powwow in April of 2018. He dances grass dance style, represents Onamia High School at powwows, and proudly danced with other Mille Lacs Band royalty and color guard at the 2019 State of the Band.
Next on his list of goals is to attend Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College when he graduates from high school. He intends to play basketball and major in physical training. "Weight lifting is my favorite class," said Brandon. "I love everything that has to do with sports." Brandon’s favorite team is the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he enjoys watching Native WNBA star Shoni Schimmel and Derek Rose of the NBA.
Brandon invites anyone to come to one of his basketball games as he is still in season. "You gotta come support the Panthers! We have a lot of up and coming Native youth who are playing on both JV and Varsity. I feel real proud to be a part of all of this! I definitely wear my school colors — yellow and black — wherever I go."