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Gophers basketball coach Pam Borton holds clinic at Cass Lake

Minnesota women's basketball coach Pam Borton breaks Friday afternoon's youth basketball clinic with a huddle at Cass Lake-Bena High School. 130 boys and girls eighth grade and under attended the clinic. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

CASS LAKE - For the second time this week, a University of Minnesota basketball coach visited Cass Lake-Bena High School.

Minnesota women's basketball coach Pam Borton held two youth basketball clinics Friday at the High School that attracted 130 children.

"I think the biggest message we want to send is that we care a lot about the people up here, the outstate community and the Native American community," Borton said.

Minnesota men's basketball coach Tubby Smith visited Cass Lake Wednesday.

In the afternoon session, Borton directed a game called "Land, Sea and Air," to challenge listening and athletic abilities.

With the children hopping and jumping around the sideline-based game, there was plenty of laughter to go around.

"We only played that game once today, so I guess we saved the best for last," Borton said. "I like to teach not only basketball skills, but life skills at these camps."

Borton is heading into her eighth season as the Minnesota women's basketball coach, where she holds a 221-119 record with the Gophers.

She guided the Gophers to the women's Final Four in 2004 and an NCAA Tournament appearance last year.

"We really had a great season last year in getting to the NCAA Tournament and for us, it's not always about how the season ends - it's about the journey along the year," Borton said.

The Gophers reached the NCAA Tournament as a No. 12 seed and upset No. 7 Notre Dame in the first round. Minnesota lost to Texas A&M in the second round and finished 20-12.

Of note to Bemidji basketball fans is Kayla Hirt's verbal commitment to the University of Minnesota.

Hirt, who will be a junior next season at Bemidji High School, committed to the Gophers last fall.

Hirt scored a BHS record 658 points last season as a sophomore and was named to the Associated Press all-state second team.

Hirt will enter her junior season with 1,054 career points at the high school level.

Because she has not signed a national letter of intent, Borton is not allowed to comment on Hirt due to NCAA rules.

But Borton talked about her commitment to greater Minnesota.

"We really depend on outstate towns and players from those small towns," Borton said. "When we had Kelly Roysland, the whole town of Fosston would come down to watch some of the games. In the future, we would love to have the whole town of Bemidji to come down and watch our games."

Borton's roster has two players from Becker, one from Elgin, one from Cottage Grove. A player from Princeton was added in the latest recruiting class.

Borton welcomed Friday's trip to Cass Lake.

"We recruit up here during the season and I do like to come up north a few times during the year just because its so peaceful and quiet here compared to Minneapolis," Borton said.

"But we don't' get much time off and there's really no offseason. Summer school is starting and some of the freshmen are already coming next weekend."

Friday's youth clinic was the only one Borton conducts outside of the University of Minnesota.

It was not the first time she's held a clinic at Cass Lake.

"I've been coming here for the last three years and I consider Dan (Ninham) an ally for us. There are great kids up here," Borton said.