Oree Foster
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

Girls basketball: Winslow all-round athlete Justine Butterfield takes her game to next level

May 22, 2019 by Oree Foster, AZPreps365

When former Winslow Lady Bulldogs all-round senior athlete Justine Butterfield signed her combination basketball and softball letter-of-intent with Haskell Indian Nations University on March 26, she recited "Native is Unity".

"I just felt this overwhelming clarity that I must do for my Native people, so we can prosper and continue to be strong in the future," Butterfield said. "I did receive academic and many athletic scholarships, even a DI offer. But I did choose because of the lack of diversity, whereas Haskell made me feel more comfortable. That is a huge decision I had to make. My thoughts of all of the DII, DIII, JUCO and NAIA athletic divisions is all what you make of it."

Butterfield said as for herself, she is offering her athletic skills and signing to a tribal college was her doing what she can of Natives.

"I'm elated that I get to carry out on the Native tradition," Butterfield said. "I have committed to play for Haskell two years and have plans to transfer to Kansas University, where they have my intended major. I am happy with the choice I have made.

Butterfield admitted she hasn't been on Haskell campus as of late. Butterfield said she visted the Haskell campus when an aunt of hers successfully graduated from the university.

"Visiting Haskell was an amazing opportunity and for that, I thank my auntie, Shyla, because she is a huge support in helping me make my decision, along with my family to attend Haskell Indian Nations University," Butterfield said.

Butterfield became a household name with the Lady Bulldogs, with her athletic ability and fundamental skills in basketball, softball and volleyball. Butterfield would pull down key rebounds, score crucial baskets with her put backs or short jumpers in basketball as a forward. Butterfield would throw blazing fastballs and fool batters with her riser, drop and curve ball as a softball pitcher. In volleyball, Butterfield was tough as a middle hitter, slamming kills over opponents working around the net.

"I am excited to be able to continue my sports at the next level," Butterfield, who plsns to major in sports Physical Therapy, said. "It is a wonderful feeling knowing I won't just be playing one, but two of my favorite sports. The first thing that came in mind was the comfortable feeling of not putting my cleats and jersey to rest just yet."

Growing up, Butterfield said she told herself she wanted to be a role model to many people. Butterfield said to this day, she is happy to continue that in college.

"Overall, my reaction was all one feeling and that feeling was knowing that I would be closer to home, closer to family and friends and nothing can get better than that with a full ride scholarship," Butterfield said.

Butterfield said she met Haskell assistant coach/recruiter Don Flanagan last year during NABI basketball tournament, when the team she was playing with, Navajo Nation Elite captured the Girls Division I Gold Bracket Championship for the second straight year, under coach Lisa Quigley.

Coach Flanagan coached national girl's basketball power Eldorado High School of Albuquerque, New Mexico (1979-1995) to 11 State Championships, including a 72-game winning streak and were ranked nationally for 10 years.

From 1995-2011, coach Flanagan was head women's basketball coach at University of New Mexico, where he coached the Lobos to 7 NCAA tournaments, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2005. Coach Flanagan retired and currently assisting his son, head coach Shane Flanagan, at Haskell.

Butterfield said since signing her letter-of-intent, she has been in constant contact with coach Flanagan and Haskell softball coach Gary Tanner. She said as a new recruit, she hasn't met any of Haskell's returning basketball or softball players.

"I have not met any of the players of both (basketball and softball) teams, but very excited to do so," Butterfield said. "I have met some of the incoming freshmen players and some of which are girls that I have played with, which is very reassuring that we will have a good team and a good season."

Butterfield said Haskell is losing two seniors in basketball. She said everyone else on the team is returning. She said Haskell had a great year, considering the team relied on freshmen and sophomores.

"The women's basketball program is building something that is going to be very special," Butterfield said. "When Coach Flanagan and I discussed he stated, "when we reach nationals, it is going to be national news and I believe with this team we can compete for a national championship". And I believe that with all of the incoming talent and competitiveness, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to."

Butterfield said when she talked with coach Tanner, he told her that last year's team had a lot of seniors and the team is starting off fresh with first year players.

"I see there will be success in both (basketball and softball) programs," Butterfield said. "Entering college, the competition is going to be much harder and more aggressive. So, in both sports, I need to work on my physical side of the game, which is being stronger mentally, more physical and even smarter. There's no room for fear, but always room to get better. So, I plan to better myself each practice and game."

Butterfield, her father, Daniel Sanders, and sister, Taylor Butterfield, are preparing team Kryptonite for next week's Arizona Diamondbacks Inter-Tribal Youth Softball Tournament in Phoenix/Scottsdale, May 29-June 1.

Butterfield plans to compete in NABI basketball tournament, with two-time Girls Division I Gold Bracket Champion, Navajo Nation Elite, coached by Lisa Quigley, June 23-29 in Maricopa, Arizona.

Today at 8 p.m., Butterfield and senior classmates are graduating from Winslow High School. Butterfield leaves for Haskell in July, where she begins off-season workouts. Classes begin August 19.