CATCHING UP WITH MICHAEL LINKLATER It’s been a very productive year for Michael Linklater, who has accomplished many things for himself and the community. Throughout the year, his basketball team competed in a number of FIBA (Federation of International Basketball Association) 3X3 basketball tournaments that took him around the world, including a trip to Tokyo, Japan in October to compete in the World Tour Finals. In November, he also took some time to organize a much needed event called, “Boys with Braids” in Saskatoon, SK, which was meant to empower Indigenous boys to be proud of their long hair and braids. To finish off the year in December, his team was invited to the FIBA 3X3 World All Star Tournament in Dhuhr, Qatar, where they will get the chance to prove themselves again on the world stage. For those not yet familiar with Linklater, achieving this kind of success took years in the making and its a story that I have followed as a reporter since I went to high school with him back in 1998.
BORN IN THE USA Beginning with his childhood; Michael Linklater was born in Trenton, New Jersey, USA, but was raised in Saskatoon, by his grandparents, Maria and Walter Linklater, both of whom he calls “Mom and Dad”. Linklater spent a lot of his childhood playing basketball on the courts of St.Mary’s Elementary School - a sacred place which was like his second home. It is here that his journey to basketball success began. In high school, Linklater’s game started to develop to a point where he was dominating other high school players. He was playing for Mount Royal Collegiate Mustangs and was quickly becoming the buzz of Saskatoon basketball circles. In the off-season, Linklater also played organized basketball whenever he could, like participating in the 1998 Saskatchewan Indian Winter Games in Regina, where he would lead his team to Gold - becoming the first of many Championships in the future. Kevin Moccasin was his best friend at the time, and was just as competitive but also extremely talented due to his skills and length. As teenagers, Kevin and Michael were an unstoppable basketball duo on street courts throughout the city and for a brief time, teammates at Mount Royal. But in 2003, tragedy struck, as Moccasin went to an after hours party and got into a fight with another person and was stabbed and later passed away as
a result. For Linklater, it was devastating to lose his best friend, but Linklater took this as a lesson to just continue bettering himself. He never drank or did drugs in his life and continues to walk the red road while dribbling a basketball. So to honour his best friend, he started the Kevin Moccasin Memorial Basketball Tournament which took place four years in a row after his death and was brought back in 2013 to commemorate ten years since Moccasin passed away. Linklater described Kevin as, “a warm cheerful spirit always with a smile on his face and a protector over friends and family”. For Linklater, Life continued on in college in the US and Canada; 1st year with United Tribes (Bismarck, ND); 2nd year with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies (Saskatoon, SK); 3rd year with SAIT - Southern Alberta Institute of Technologies (Calgary, AB); 4th year with Lakeland College (Lloydminster, AB); and his 5th and final year back with the U of S Huskies. It was that year, when Linklater helped lead the U of S Huskies to their first ever Canadian InterUniversity Sport (CIS) Championship in 2010. “Winning the first ever Championship was huge for us” explained Linklater. But it wasn’t the last time he would chase a Championship. Earlier this year, Linklater and his team competed at FIBA 3X3 American Qualifiers in Chicago, IL, where they qualified for the FIBA 3x3 World Tour Finals in Tokyo, Japan. Travelling to Japan in October, Linklater says it was a great cultural experience for his team. “It was great, new country, new culture... something worthwhile. Amazing to be in the competition. Japan put a lot of work in letting you experience their culture”. His team made it all the way to the championship final, where unfortunately they played their “worst game of the year”, says Linklater.
STORY BY CHRIS TYRONE ROSS Additional Reporting by Katryna Smith PHOTOS BY CURTIS CAMERON + Shelley Mike
INSPIRING INDIGENOUS YOUTH THROUGH BASKETBALL &
Published on Dec 15, 2014
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