Raychael Harjo, a sophomore guard from Moore, Oklahoma, was first introduced to the sport she loves, which would become her career, by her family when she was a little girl.
“All my relatives, my aunts, uncles, they’ve all played basketball,” Harjo said. “And my dad, he showed me when I was really young. He showed me how to shoot and dribble and all that. So, I started to fall in love with basketball because of how competitive it was and how fun it was just to be out there.”
Harjo began her high school at Edmond North, located 30 minutes outside of Moore. She played there her freshman year, until she transferred to Moore High School.
During her time as a Lion, Harjo earned multiple achievements. She finished high school with a 1,000-point scoring while averaging 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Harjo also earned multiple all-conference and all-state honors throughout her high school career. This led her to be recruited by plenty of universities, but ultimately wanting to leave the Midwest, Harjo chose to play for the University of Central Florida.
She played a year with the UCF Golden Knights, and after some struggles, ultimately decided to enter the transfer portal. She was recruited by many teams, including head coach Julie Goodenough and her staff. Harjo eventually visited ACU and fell in love.
“I wanted to play for coaches that emphasize family environment and reach out to their players. Not just talk about basketball all the time, but talking about family stuff and school. So when I was recruited by ACU, I feel that’s what they really emphasized, plus when I came here on my visit, it was amazing, with all the new facilities and all that. I was like, ‘Yeah, I got to come here.'”
So far this season, Harjo has played a significant role off the bench. So far, she averages 15 minutes per game and 14 points a game. She also saw a collegiate career-high of 22 points in ACU’s matchup against the Rice Owls.
Along with Harjo being one of the few athletes in the country that is able to play at the NCAA Division I level for basketball, she is also one of the few players who is Native American.
Harjo is a member of the Chickasaw Nation with lineage from the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. With her heritage, she is one of the 624 Native American student athletes at the Division I level, with that number only making up .34% of all student athletes at the Division I level according to the NCAA Demographics Database. It is also currently the smallest of all recorded demographics in the database.
When asked about her heritage, Harjo said she is proud to be a part of that small number, but she admits there are some difficulties with there not being many Native Americans at the NCAA Division I level..
“It means a lot to me just because there is a small number and it feels really cool that I am a part of that small percentage,” Harjo said. “I feel I do represent my culture when I am playing basketball and it’s also a part of who I am and part of my family. Being Native American, it is hard not seeing as many native people. But, it’s really cool to represent my heritage.”
Despite the small numbers, Harjo has seen growth in Native Americans that are student athletes, and is hopeful for the future for people like her entering collegiate athletics.
“It’s starting to rise, which is a great thing,” Harjo said. “When I look online, I’m starting to see a lot more Native American athletes in Division I, Division II, NAIA and junior college. So, I’m really happy for the future. I feel like the future is going to be even bigger.”