"I would get made fun of a lot for not being a ‘regular’ kid on the reservation because I didn’t want to stay out late and party. But for me, that was an easy sacrifice in order to achieve my goals of being an athlete and playing basketball." 

A 2008 Red Cloud graduate, Christian McGhee ‘08 is a living example of what hard work and determination can get you. During his time at Red Cloud High School, Christian helped lead his team to a championship at the Lakota Nation Invitational basketball tournament while maintaining impressive grades and an active after-school regimen of practices and clubs. With the support of his family and a strong work ethic, Christian was offered numerous full-ride scholarships to college and universities across the country. Ultimately decided to accept a offer at Chadron State University in Nebraska to stay close to family and friends. After studying sports and recreation management, Christian graduated and returned to Red Cloud as athletic director to lead future generations of student-athletes to success.

Q&A with Christian McGhee:

What was it like growing up on Pine Ridge?

We didn’t grow up with much. But I had both my parents, and that really helped me keep a good head on my shoulders and know right from wrong. My father really instilled the value of hard work in me. He was always working overtime to support our family. He never spoiled me and always expected me to help out, do chores and reminded me that I had to work hard for whatever I wanted. I knew it wouldn’t be handed to me.

I was always playing sports. Baseball was my first love, but basketball was important to me as well. I just loved to be outside, really. I would get bullied and made fun of a lot for not being a ‘regular’ kid on the reservation because I didn’t want to stay out late and party. But for me, that was an easy sacrifice in order to achieve my goals of being an athlete and playing basketball.

And you did play basketball, both at Red Cloud and in college.

I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to get into the NBA, so my dream quickly became to play college ball. At Red Cloud my coach Matthew Rama really supported me and helped me grow as a player and I started thinking about how playing sports could help me get to college.

I went to the Lakota Nation Invitational all four years of high school and, during my senior year,  our team won the championship in front of 8,000 spectators. I’ll never forget that feeling. I originally wanted to go to Black Hills State University, and I had been in touch with them throughout my high school career. However, after the season ended during my senior year, I heard from Black Hills State that they were looking for a different position. So I started looking at my other options.

I was offered a few full-ride scholarships to smaller colleges elsewhere in the country, but my counselor at Red Cloud, Keith Ferguson, suggested looking at Chadron State in Nebraska. It ended up being perfect for me and was actually a better school, divisionally, for playing basketball. It was far enough away to be away, but close enough that I could still get home and my friends, parents and grandparents could watch me play.

And now you’ve returned to your community, to Red Cloud. What are you goals for the school’s athletic program?

My goal is to get Red Cloud’s sports programs to be seen as ‘elite’ at the state level. I want to see all of our teams to be major contenders for the state championships. I want to know as a school that we’ll always have good teams.

I also want to help support and maintain our facilities. I want Red Cloud students to be proud of their school and have others recognize the quality of our teams and our program.

And overall, I want to help kids get to college. If they want to play sports in college, I want to help them get there by showing them through example that it’s possible. No matter where they come from, not a lot of kids from the reservation get to go to college, let alone play a sport—so I really want to help make their dreams a reality, whatever they are, whether that’s to play a sport or become a teacher.

You’ve really ‘completed the circle’ by going off to school and returning to Red Cloud to support the next generation. What’s next for you? Are you going to be a ‘lifer?’

Oh yes, definitely! Someone asked me recently if I’d want to coach elsewhere, but honestly, I’ve never really thought about it. This is my home, I want to be here and help these kids, since I know what they’re going through. I feel like I could be a lifer here. At least I’d like to be.

last updated: December 26, 2013