Faces in the Crowd: Zachary Darling

A SDSM&T student is giving back in a unique way, with the use of basketball nets

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Zachary Darling is a student at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He began a special mission this summer – populating basketball courts throughout the Native American reservations with fresh nets, which he says is about taking a small gesture and turning into a life-changing moment. He began a not for profit organization called Nets for Natives.

Zachary grew up listening to the stories of his grandmother and discussing native American culture with his family – the history intrigued him. His grandmother is part of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

He says, “I always heard stories about her growing up in boarding schools and the struggles she had to endure when she was younger … It really confused me to see my life and to see how she had to live her life, as I felt like I was always safe – I always had an abundance of opportunities and people believing in me. I always had a sudden urgency that there needs to be a greater impact for the better in the Native Nations.”

nets for natives

Attending his grandmother’s funeral in Timberlake, South Dakota sparked an idea. He noticed that of eight hoops on a basketball court, he saw only three had nets, and those nets were torn. Then, the idea came to him to put all new nets on the reservation’s basketball hoops.

“What is basketball about? It’s about the swish! It’s about missing and missing and trying to go for that perfect shot and looking for that moment of clarity. And when you get that swish – that crisp sound … there is just something about how the universe aligns when you make that swish, and the sound it makes and the feeling it puts in you – that feeling of accomplishment. It’s all about becoming the strongest version of yourself.”

So far, almost all of Pine Ridge has been completed with new nets. The concept is to completely populate all reservations, beginning in South Dakota.

“What Nets for Natives does is it tries to show how something so small can turn into something so big … and most importantly, just having an unabashed belief in yourself. It’s an avenue to promote that.”

Zachary hopes to expand the outreach and offer hoops and equipment to the reservations and get people involved to revitalize the basketball courts.

Click here for information on how to donate to the cause.

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Categories: Faces in the Crowd, Local News, South Dakota News