Unimaginable loss of teammate driving Red Lake to win state basketball tournament

Anytime the Red Lake High School boys’ basketball team takes the court, they're representing their entire reservation in northern Minnesota. It’s a similar story this season as the team is back in the state tournament for the third year in a row, but this year the Ogichidaag are playing for one person in particular and a memory that will never be forgotten.

15-year-old Aaron White, the coach’s son and player on the team, passed away from cancer at the start of the season in November. The loss for his teammates is unimaginable, but his memory is the driving force behind the Ogichidaag’s 26 wins and counting.

"To not hear his voice, to not see him out on the court with me, it's heartbreaking for me,” Aaron’s cousin and teammate, Robert McClain, said.

Aaron wasn’t the biggest player on the team, but his infectious enthusiasm was enormous.

“He was small, but he was scrappy,” Aaron’s dad and coach, Roger White, said. “He was always the guy to cheer you on."

Whenever Red Lake makes the state basketball tournament, hundreds of fans from the reservation follow them down to the Twin Cities.

This year, every shot from the players and every shout from the fans are for Aaron.

"With all the things he went through…they use that too as inspiration,” Roger said. “I know he’s up there watching. I know he’s proud of these boys.”

Red Lake won their first game of the state tournament Thursday 66-52 and their goal of winning a title for Aaron is still going strong. The Ogichidaag will advance to the Class 1A semifinals on Friday.