The road ahead

Three Hardin Bulldog basketball players recruited to play in China
Thursday, November 7, 2019
The road ahead

File photo

Marie Five


Hardin High School

The road ahead

File photo

Julianna Takes Horse


Hardin High School

The road ahead

File photo

Ivery Fritzler

Shooting Guard

Hardin High School

Three Crow Agency teens will be making the long trek over the Pacific Ocean into China to do what they do best, play basketball.

Hardin Bulldog ballers, Marie Five, Juliana Takes Horse and Ivery Fritzler were selected by Esco Sports International to represent the United States and the Crow Nation at the WSE Basketball Academy in Foshan, Guangdong, China, a region famous for its Chinese opera and martial arts. They will be traveling there in April.

Centers Five and Takes Horse were recruited last month, while shooting guard Fritzler just found out this week that she’s been invited to join the Esco team.

“I just got off the phone with them,” Fritzler’s mother Casaja Fritzler said. “I’m shocked.”

Michael and Katherine Escobedo, of Esco Sports, both had opportunities to compete overseas when they played for Multnomah University, a private non-denominational Christian university in Portland, Oregon.

“We want to give kids the opportunity to play basketball at a high level and to see the world,” he said. “So they can see there is more out there.”

Escobedo has recruited students from New York, Hawaii, Oregon, among other states, but never Montana.

This year there are four players from Montana on his roster for the trip to China, Five, Takes Horse, Fritzler and Trent Main, a center who plays for Harlem Junior/Senior High School.

Takes Horse, a 6’0’ senior, and Five, a 6’2” senior, were both scouted and asked to play on a travelling AAU team called Sacred Hoops, that’s where they caught the eye of “Being around the game, we see a lot of players,” Escobedo said. “A lot of our recruiting is word of mouth.”

Esco, formed in 2017, recruits primarily through social media.

“Julianna asked me to call her mom, because she didn’t believe we were real,” Escobedo said.

Takes Horse, who is recovering from knee injuries, has been doing some rehabilitation work, and since she received the news from Escobedo, she’s been working on strength, running, and agility.

“I want to see the ocean, the huge cities, and experience being in a totally crowded place,” Takes Horse said, “and I’ve never flown on a plane before.”

Five said her greatest strength on the court is rebounding, and since she found out about this opportunity she’s been working on her game, endurance, shots, and agility.

“I’m excited to see how the cities and towns (in China) are set up,” she said. “And the clothes they wear.”

She added that she also wants to learn from meeting new people, and experiencing a new culture.

The trip will cost over $3,000 for each player and the girls have already started their fundraising efforts. Five said she’s focused on hosting local basketball tournaments to bring in money. She and Takes Horse are also selling squares on fundraising boards. Takes Horse has also had plate sales.

Casaja Fritzler said the family would start their fundraising efforts as soon as possible.

Esco Sports also has opportunities on their website for businesses who want to fully or partially sponsor an athlete.

Takes Horse plans to attend college and has had a couple offers. She is ultimately interested in obtaining a law degree. Five has also has had several basketball scholarship offers, but has yet to commit to a college.

“There are a lot of people who look down on Native students, and at one time (Native students) weren’t very well recruited due to the outside seeing Natives as undisciplined and or lazy,” Takes Horse said.

A new generation of players has changed that perspective. Players like Tarae Briggs, a University of Nevada-Reno graduate and professional basketball player in Europe and RayQuan Evans, a North Idaho College graduate who was heavily recruited by many Division 1 schools, but chose Florida State University.

Because of their height, both Takes Horse and Five were heavily recruited in middle school to play on teams. They have both been on winning teams, and had all-star and MVP awards.

Five said she is proud to be representing the Crow Nation.

Both girls said they are excited to play their final season of high school ball for the Bulldogs, both have played in championship games and are eager and hoping to make it back to the title game and bring home a state title.


Big Horn County News General Manager/Editor Luella N. Brien contributed to this story.