Native American basketball legend inspires others to dream big

Native American basketball legend...

Hoopfest brings thousands of people to Spokane and there’s one person in particular whose life is inspiring others. It’s a story that’s touched the lives of many and will soon be going to Hollywood in 2021.

“Basketball has given me every opportunity that I could have ever dreamed about,” said Jaci McCormack, Founder of Rise Above.

The court has been McCormack’s happy place ever since she was a little girl.

“My parents, you know, both played sports. I was raised around basketball and just loved and developed a passion for the game,” said McCormack.

McCormack grew up on the Nez Perce Reservation near Lapwai, Idaho. Like many kids, she had her fair share of struggles.

“I struggled socially, academically and the only place that I found peace at Lake Oswego was on the basketball court,” said McCormack.

It’s that peace that led her to pursue the pressure of college basketball at Illinois State.

“When I went to college, I always told myself that I wanted to be somebody that kids could look up to and give back to in any capacity that I could,” said McCormack.

With the help of her friend Brad Meyers, her organization Rise Above was born.

“Rise Above uses sport, primarily basketball, as a modality to inspire youth through sport,” said McCormack.

However, it goes far beyond just basketball. It’s a way for them to teach kids in tribal communities about everyday life.

“We’ve done events where it’s suicide prevention, diabetes education, health and wellness, healthy relationships,” McCormack said.

Yet what McCormack really wants is to show kids that it’s possible to play basketball anywhere.

“There’s no question natives can be playing at any collegiate level, whether it’s a community college, division one, definitely,” said McCormack.

This weekend McCormack will be playing at Hoopfest. However, she’s less interested in the attention her story has received and more interested in the affect it will have on others.

“It’s less about me and more about the bigger picture and how we can impact kids,” McCormack said.

So while the court will always be McCormack’s happy place, there’s nothing that makes her happier than sharing that passion with others.

“Starting Rise Above though, this is what I’m passionate about. This is my passion,” said McCormack.

McCormack will be playing her first game at Hoopfest on Saturday. If you want to see her play, you can catch her at Huppin’s Court at 10:30 a.m.

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