LODGE GRASS — The saying, ‘Ball is life,' is a common refrain among basketball players. For Lodge Grass’ Little Nest brothers, though, it couldn’t ring truer.
Senior Malachai is the starting point guard for the defending co-champion Indians, while his freshman brother Lance has supplemented the team both off the bench and in the starting lineup. Their father, Andrew Little Nest, introduced them to the game early and they haven’t stopped hooping since.
“We started off pretty young, around age 8, 9. He’d take us to the court, show us the game, show us the fundamentals – dribbling, shooting. He just really took us to the courts a lot," Malachai Little Nest said.
The Little Nest brothers bring more than just raw talent to the floor. Although they’re not the vocal leaders, their play and work ethic set the tone. It’s no surprise they can handle the rock, too, given their playing surface growing up.
“They just do everything that’s asked of them. They do all that we ask and then some. They never complain, they never roll their eyes, their body language - everything is solid," Lodge Grass head coach Josh Stewart said. "That just comes from home. I know their parents have worked to keep them strong at home, in the classroom and here.”
“Where we lived in Black Ledge, it was just gravel, so it really helped us with dribbling, off-ball shooting," Malachai Little Nest said. "It always helped us out because we would always lose the ball. It was pretty tough dribbling on the gravel, so that’s helped us out a lot.”
Malachai has given Lance a blueprint to success at the high school level, and they’re cherishing their one year together. Even when Malachai is gone, Lance has another role model at home to look to.
“It’s very special. I never thought I’d be playing with him in high school," said Lance Little Nest. "To be on the same team, varsity, that’s everything. Being on varsity with him, playing on the same team and starting.”
“Lance is following the path that his brother laid for him, and they’re both following the one their dad laid for them. He was a hard worker -- a good, hard-working individual and a great basketball player, someone that I looked up to," Stewart said. "To have that trailblazer, I think it really helps Lance step into something special. And I think he knows that he can be special if he does it right.”
Andrew Little Nest has been a big factor in the growth and development of Lance and Malachai on the hardwood. Their relentless style of play can be attributed to the mindset instilled in the Little Nest brothers.
“They lift a lot of weights, they eat right. They do what they’re supposed to at home. They’re solid there," Stewart said. "Like everyone else, they’ve faced their own hardship and stuff, but he helps them navigate through those storms. He makes sure that they are coachable, that they work extremely hard, that they have a fearless mindset. In everything they do, that have that fearless, attack mentality.”
Malachai and Lance have been key figures in Lodge Grass’ continued success this season, as the Indians are on the short list of favorites to hoist a state championship trophy in Billings on March 13.