Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss laughed at the notion that he’s becoming a globetrotter.
Not of the basketball variety, mind you, although his performance on the court last week was impressive – and could be meaningful as the Durango teenager continues a recent trek out East.
Hotchkiss, 16, led the Rollin’ Lobos, based out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to a fourth-place finish in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association national tournament over the weekend in Louisville, Kentucky.
Then Hotchkiss got on a plane for the 400-mile-or-so trip to Washington, D.C., where he plans to receive the training he needs to make sports more viable for the disabled – in this case, for Native Americans.
He said he believes his experience in Louisville went a long way toward that end.
“I think it (finishing fourth in the NWBA junior varsity division) gave me a little more notability,” said Hotchkiss, who is in Washington to learn how to organize, market and manage projects after recently receiving a $10,000 grant to develop a project to bring more Native Americans with disabilities into sports. He’s one of 10 young Native Americans who received a grant from Running Strong for American Indian Youth.
Hotchkiss, working with the Durango chapter of the Adaptive Sports Association, plans to hold basketball camps in Ignacio, Gallup and Sandia Pueblo in New Mexico and in Tuba City, Arizona.
“A lot of teams knew who we were (after the tournament),” said the junior at Animas High School, who has been confined to a wheelchair since 2009 as the result of an automobile accident. “I’m hoping it gives me credentials on why I’m holding my basketball camps.”
The four-day orientation in Washington will hold Hotchkiss’ attention this week. But last week, it was all basketball.
The Rollin’ Lobos were the first team to qualify in their first year in the 28-year history of the national tournament and went further than even Hotchkiss imagined.
“I was pretty surprised. I didn’t think we’d get that far in the tournament,” he said. “We’re a first-year team, which has never happened before. I’m happy with how the team played and pushed each other to do better.”
The Rollin’ Lobos surprised a few teams along the way, too. According to Jason Hotchkiss, Noah’s father, the team first defeated the sixth-ranked Oakland/San Francisco BORP Jr. Road Warriors 49-17 and the No. 3 Bennett Blazers from Maryland 47-25 to advance to the Final Four. Noah Hotchkiss led the team in both games with 18 and 23 points, respectively.
In the national semifinal, the Rollin’ Lobos, ranked 11th in the junior varsity division, came up just short against the eventual champion – the Indianapolis Racers, losing by a point, Noah Hotchkiss said.
“I think they were surprised we came one point from beating them,” he said.
The Rollin’ Lobos then lost by five points to a team from Minnesota in their final game of the tournament en route to the fourth-place finish, Hotchkiss said, adding that he scored 16 points in the semifinal and 19 in the final game and led the team with an 18-point average in the tournament.
He said he’s the only Colorado player on the seven-player team, with the rest hailing from Texas and the Albuquerque area.
“Next season we’re hoping to be in the varsity division (at the national tournament),” Hotchkiss said of his goal to move up a class from the JV division. “I think we’re up for the challenge. All but one (player) is coming back. We’re trying to do some outreaching to younger kids.”
He’ll continue that effort with his grant-aided project.
“I think it will be really impactful,” he said of this week’s Washington experience. “I haven’t really tried to become a leader, but this is the path that has been chosen for me.