While lots of Whatcom County high school students dedicate their free time to an after-school sport, Lummi Nation’s Shandeara Julius has set the bar a little higher by participating in two sports … at once.
The six-foot junior has been playing basketball for the Lady Blackhawks for four years, but she always had a soft spot for cheer as well.
Fortunately for Julius, she doesn’t have to choose.
The Northwest 1B League boys and girls teams regularly schedule games back-to-back in the same gymnasium, meaning Julius can first play basketball in the girls game and then be a cheerleader for the boys team afterward.
“I see a lot of girls who are competitive in basketball who like to cheer also,” Julius said.
And for good reason.
“Cheering is fun,” said first-year Lummi Nation cheer coach Kahneesha Casey, who works closely with girls basketball coach Michael Wade to schedule around both programs so the school can offer girls as many opportunities to be involved as possible.
“Lummi (Nation) really wanted to keep it fair, so as much energy and time that they put into the boys (programs), they put into the girls,” Casey said.
The Lummi Nation boys and girls wrapped up their regular seasons at Grace Academy on Tuesday, Feb. 4, and will host district playoff games on Thursday. The Lady Blackhawks lost on Tuesday, 51-35, and have to settle for a Northwest 1B League co-championship with Grace Academy. They will play Cedar Park Christian (Mountlake Terrace) on Thursday at 5 p.m. The Lummi Nation boys defeated Grace Academy on Tuesday, 70-29, and as league champs will play a district semifinal on Thursday following the girls game.
Along with Julius, JV basketball players Jaden Howard and Aliyah Wilson are on the cheer squad.
“It’s such a big time commitment,” said Casey. “But they do their best to come to cheer and be ready, be prepared, and also do that for basketball.”
Wade agreed: “Their ability to shift gears is admirable.”
Despite the challenges, Julius — who sometimes has less than five minutes to swap uniforms between games — wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“With basketball, I like the aggressiveness on the court,” Julius said. “And cheering … it just gets me hyped. I like the excitement that it brings me and the motivation everyone gives me to do it.”
Of all her motivators, Julius said her grandma is number one.
“She’s really proud of me,” Julius said, adding that it’s because of her grandma’s support that Julius is able to do what she does.
And what she does is not easy.
When she’s not on the court or cheering on the sidelines, Julius is busy with school, either in the classroom or at home. She plans on some day becoming a nurse.
“If anyone wanted to do this, I’d just encourage them to stick with it and always bring excitement to your teammates; never bring anybody down,” Julius said.
It’s this positivity that makes Julius such an asset to both her teams.
“She’s such a joy to be around,” Casey said. “I can tell she’s a leader when she’s playing basketball, and she brings that to cheerleading.”
Basketball coach Wade also complimented Julius, Howard and Wilson on their perseverance and commitment.
“Shandeara’s dedication has made a big impact,” said Wade. “It’s a big deal to see what they (Julius, Howard and Wilson) have accomplished.”