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'He’s not the boy. He’s the man': Box Elder great Brandon The Boy helping guide undefeated Bears

Posted at 4:19 PM, Feb 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 15:58:00-05

GREAT FALLS — The undefeated Box Elder boys won a Northern C divisional basketball championship on Saturday for the first time since 2016 and are heading back to the state tournament next week in Great Falls as a No. 1 seed.

That 2016 team went on to win a state title, led by star guard Brandon The Boy and a stellar senior class.

Eight years later, The Boy is back on the Bears bench in his first year as an assistant on coach Jeremy MacDonald’s staff.

“It wasn't very long ago I was inspiring some of these players and giving them my autograph,” The Boy said. “And so to be able to come home and help them, especially in my first year, it's been kind of heartwarming, really. They mean a lot to me and I always meant a lot to them. So it's good to just be there and help them any way that I could and share my college experience and my high school career experience.”

Following his time at Box Elder, The Boy played college basketball at Rocky Mountain College. He graduated from MSU Billings in 2023 with a degree in Health and Human Performance. He took a job as a PE teacher at Box Elder, and MacDonald immediately added him to the coaching staff.

The Box Elder boys defeated Belt 54-45 to win the Northern C title.

“I didn’t give him much of a choice. Brandon was the floor general. He was a winner. He was a champion. He represented our school well in college, and we're just lucky to have him back,” MacDonald said. “He's part of the program. It's just great to see our young people coming back and helping out. And Brandon's a role model for that. He's the man. He's not the boy. He's the man.”

When The Boy was in high school, he grew close with some of the current Box Elder players. He would visit the elementary school and read to kids and built relationships with now-juniors like Tracen Jilot and Tuarie Stiffarm-Rosette. They bonded over their shared Gros Ventre tribal heritage.

Brandon the Boy and Tracen Jilot in 2016 (left) and 2024 (right)

“I don't know if it's because that I played and I've won, but they still look up to me. Their ears perk up when I speak and they respect me in a lot of ways,” The Boy said. “I just try to bring energy and cover all the things Coach J don't cover. I'll cover that. My experiences in college, that's really helped me see the game at a higher level, the speed, the bigs.”

And his presence has helped push the Bears to an undefeated season.

“He's a guy who I really looked up to and he's been in this tournament multiple times,” Jilot said after Saturday’s championship. “And just looking up to him and he guides me in the right way to lead the team. He brings a really great presence, helps us calm down, execute good and just sharpens us in general.”

Brandon is still revered on the Rocky Boy's Reservation. There were many young fans asking for his autograph after Saturday’s win, and he obliged them all. But it’s not just his basketball acumen and success that endears him to the community. It’s the example he sets for Native youth.

“Another reason I’m so close with these kids is I knew who they were and where they came from. We’re all Gros Ventre boys. And so that makes it much more special,” The Boy said. “We talk about going on a war party together, and this is our way of going into battle nowadays. And it means a lot with these guys.

"So just to help being their leader for another voice, it means a lot.”

Box Elder will open the State C tournament on March 6 against upstart Harrison at 7:30 p.m.

The Box Elder boys defeated Belt 54-45 to win the Northern C title.