Tahnee Robinson (Northern Cheyenne, Pawnee, Sioux, Eastern Shoshone)
Tahnee Rose Robinson was born February 2, 1988. Along with brothers Tim and Buell, they were raised on the Wind River Reservation in Fort Washakie, Wyoming by parents Tim and Sara Robinson. Her mother is Skidi Pawnee and Eastern Shoshone and her dad is Cheyenne and Sioux so Tahnee was comprised of a diverse and proud background from the start.
She attended Lander Valley High School in Lander, Wyoming, graduating in 2006, where she led her team to the Class 3A State Title. Soon after, she received a basketball scholarship to the University of Wyoming. She was the pride of the state, a successful Native American girl with a bright future in college basketball and a role model for girls on the reservation. Less than a month before her first college season began she learned she was pregnant. She decided to leave Wyoming and school to have the baby. Her son Julius Jeffrey was born July 22, 2007. He's named after Julius Erving and his middle name Jeffrey, is Michael Jordan's middle name. "Those two elevated the game," Tahnee said.
As a 19 year old single mother she thought that basketball and college were no longer options. Her family however, had other ideas, especially when Sheridan College coach Frank McCarthy called offering her a second chance to play. Tahnee’s parents encouraged her to go back and take this opportunity, even offering to care of her son while she was in school. She knew she had the talent to compete but realized she needed to keep being positive and believing in herself. With the support and belief of her family behind her she threw herself into basketball at Sheridan College, located in northern Wyoming. There she had an outstanding junior college career, leading the nation in scoring at 29.8 points per game during her sophomore season in 2008-09.
Her success at Sheridan College led to many offers to play at four-year universities. After connecting with Coach Jane Albright from the University of Nevada-Reno she decided to go there. However, instead of being just 4 hours away, Nevada-Reno was 800 miles from home instead and she struggled with the decision to attend because she would be even less able to see her young son. Once again, her family stepped in to help her and she found comfort in the support of an extended family as not only her parents, but aunts, uncles, and cousins all agreed to watch over her child. “Missing your child is a whole lot to deal with,” Tahnee said. “I kind of had to just engage myself in other things. I was always in the gym, always working out. I tried to keep my mind off it because it’s overwhelming to think about, because I really do miss him. But knowing he’s around that much family and that much love, it helps me get through the day.”
Distracting herself with hard work, she focused all efforts on improving on the basketball court and quickly became a key component of the Nevada Wolfpack program as she averaged 16.1 points per game (ppg) in her first season, while earning accolades along the way including Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Newcomer of the Year in 2009-10 and first team all-WAC. For her second season (2010-11) she finished ranked 9th in the nation in scoring (22.1 ppg) and shot 44.6% from the field, including 41.7% from the 3-point line. Nevada finished with a 22-11 overall record and received their second consecutive appearance in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). She also earned first-team All-WAC again and was named to the WAC All-Tournament team. Additionally, she was named one of five finalists for the Sullivan Award, given annually to the nation’s top amateur athlete. She was named a WBCA All-Region honoree and WAC Verizon Player of the Week three times over the 2010-11 season.
Throughout all of the hard times, Tahnee’s determination to succeed pushed her to be as good as she needed to be in order to thrive and move forward. In April 2011, she became Nevada’s first-ever player drafted by the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). She was selected as the 31stoverall pick by the Phoenix Mercury and then traded to the Connecticut Sun. She also became the first full-blooded Native American player drafted in the WNBA. When she was selected she fought back tears as she reflected on the road she traveled to get there. “It’s definitely been a whirlwind; it’s been a rollercoaster,” she said. “Struggles happen to a lot of people all the time in different ways, and this was my struggle and the path that I had to take. Everything’s been worth it. This moment just washes away everything. It’s just kind of shock and excitement at the same time.” Although she did not make professional WNBA roster in 2011, she has played professionally in Europe and the Middle East for various countries including Bulgaria and Israel while working to improve her status as a WNBA prospect. Currently she is signed to play for Team Elizabeth-Basket in Ukraine for the 2013-14 season. This experience has allowed her to grow as a person and even branch off into other avenues of life to explore other interests as well.
When she was drafted in 2011 she was blessed with a great opportunity to represent and serve as a spokesperson for native people. She signed a two-year shoe deal with Nike as part of its N7 campaign which funds Native American sports and fitness programs as well as promotes health awareness and disease prevention throughout Indian country. In that capacity she traveled throughout the US and Canada to various native communities, speaking about sports and education while promoting healthy lifestyles and habits. She continues as an ambassador and mentor for native youth throughout the country and recently became the official spokesperson for Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). “While I was fortunate enough to count my parents as my true mentors, I will always do whatever it takes to make sure kids have the mentorship and tools they deserve, and the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization does that better than anyone.”
While her love of basketball has always served as her motivation, she has learned that the path to the basket is not always the clearest one. With the obstacles she has overcome she learned that talented could get her so far, but determination and hard work are what carried her to where she is today. She is a role model who inspires not only Native American youth and athletes, but her story carries into the hearts of young people everywhere who may experience life-changing obstacles through their paths in life. However, she proves that in spite of the odds stacked against someone the desire, motivation, and perseverance to continue looking forward can see one through the tough times.
Bio compiled from the following references: