The University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) will welcome its record-setting three-point specialist Gwynn Grant (Hobbs), into its athletic hall of fame May 4. The Navajo point guard who played from 1991-95 has her name in the school record books 21 times.
Her records of 71 three-pointers in a season and a 40.6 career shooting percentage from deep still stand, 22 years after she graduated. She will be one of 10 people inducted at the Thomas & Mack Center, the arena she played in.
“It was very exciting news,” she said from her home in Conehatta, Mississippi. “It’s a big accomplishment.”
Grant says she had dreamt of playing college basketball as a young girl in Ganado, Arizona, so she decided to join a childhood friend for a basketball camp at Navajo Academy in Farmington, New Mexico. She attended Navajo Academy (now Navajo Preparatory School) from 1987-1991.
“I came in as a freshman not knowing anything. I couldn’t dribble left-handed. I didn’t have good form. I asked the coach what I needed to do to start and he told me what I needed to learn.”
She decided practice was the key and spent six to eight hours per day in the gym.
In 1991, Grant led Navajo Academy to the Class AA Girls Basketball Championship. She also led the state in scoring at 21.7 points per game, which garnered attention from NCAA Division I scouts.
She committed to UNLV, a school that been in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance two seasons prior.
As a freshman, Gwynn Grant recalls stepping into big shoes as the starting point guard. “I knew I had the skills to come in and be the starting point guard, but I had a lot of help from the head coach, assistant coaches; they worked with me,” she says. “It was strenuous. I had to put in a lot of extra work: I went to practice early, I’d stay late in the gym, I’d watch videos; I spent hours trying to learn my position.”
In her first season, she set the school’s three-point record with 71. As her game continued to progress, she entered the school record books in several categories. She’s tied for first in single-season assists with 180 in 1994-95; has 295 career steals, ranking her No. 3 all-time in school history; and is the No. 10 all-time scoring leader with 1504 total.
“Shooting was the strength of my game,” said Grant, who averaged 13.3 points in her 113 collegiate games, including 74 wins. “How I became a good shooter? I spent hours and hours in the gym working on my shot. Since the day I entered the gym at Navajo Academy I started working on my shot. That’s all I’ve ever done: Just putting in hours and repetition.”
She says her proudest moment was leading UNLV to the NCAA Tournament in 1994. Gwynn Grant then took an opportunity as an assistant coach on the University of Central Florida’s women’s basketball team.
Reflecting on her career, Gwynn Grant says she was happy to have helped inspire youth. “I thought [being a role model] was very important. I wanted to let those Native Americans know that they can follow their dreams. This can come true. Seeing that Native Americans have had problems with alcoholism and drugs, I wanted to make a statement that I am not about that.”
Today, Grant is a mother of four and a physical education teacher and a high school basketball coach at Choctaw High School in Mississippi. “Basketball is still a big part of my life. I have twin girls [Kyarrah and Kyannah Grant] who are juniors and they won their first state championship this year. We’re working in the gym every day, weight lifting; they’re part of AAU teams.”
Gwynn Grant, who only knew one other Native American in her college basketball days — fellow Navajo Ryneldi Becenti — says she’s excited to see more Native women reach the next level. “I’m happy that more Native Americans are going out and achieving their goals.”
Cary Rosenbaum (Colville Confederated Tribes) is a correspondent for Indian Country Media Network. Follow him on Twitter: @caryrosenbaum