PABLO — It takes a village to raise a child. It took one to send Brendan McDonald to Australia as well.

Anonymously nominated to play basketball at the Down Under Sports Hoops Classic this month, the only thing standing between 17-year-old Brendan and the trip of a lifetime was funding.

So his family got cooking.

"We must have made at least 400 pieces of fry bread," laughed Sandi Ovitt, Brendan's grandmother. "You stay focused, you got it done — and he's going."

Friends, family, strangers and businesses on the Flathead Indian Reservation helped pool more than $6,000 in less than six week's time to pay Brendan's way to Queensland, Australia. He'll spend eight days there sight-seeing, socializing with other international players and, of course, playing the game he loves.

He departs from Los Angeles on July 10 and returns Stateside on the 21st with a three-day stopover in Hawaii as part of the package on the way back.

Brendan is a rising senior at Two Eagle River School, an alternative charter school in Pablo, and the Eagles' senior captain for this coming winter. The honorable mention all-conference point guard is used to bus rides to games that rarely extend beyond 2 hours, so adjusting to the 15-plus-hour flight from LA to Queensland will be a new experience.

He's got a pretty good plan for killing time, though.

"Sleep," deadpanned Brendan, whose only other airline experience came when he visited a grandfather in Chicago. "It'll be a great opportunity to go down there and play with a lot of great high school athletes."

Now in its 28th year, Down Under Sports uses athletics to bridge the gap between continents and give players a chance to face off against their peers from around the globe, according to the company's website. The program's other competitions include wrestling, football, cross country, golf, track and volleyball.

"He's never had an opportunity like this before," said Jason McDonald, Brendan's father. "It means a lot to him.

"... He's definitely a kid that deserves something like this. He's not out there running around, a trouble kid."

Two Eagle head coach Lloyd Irvine called Brendan his team's role model — "a good kid on and off the court" — and the Eagles' top defender. Players like Brendan are who Irvine hopes to use as building blocks for the Two Eagle River basketball program, one that struggles to retain players because of frequent academic and disciplinary issues.

Brendan grew up in Ronan — he splits his time between there and nearby Moiese where his mother, Laura Tenas, lives — before transferring to Two Eagle for his freshman year. The communities this summer rallied around the young ballplayer, who is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation.

Even if play Down Under doesn't lead to further opportunities in basketball, the trip itself will carry meaning.

For Brendan and others on the reservation.

"It just shows that the kids from here can go out," Ovitt said. "That's what he needs to prove when he comes back — that you can do it. There's a lot of kids who think you can never leave the reservation. If he can prove that, that'll open up the eyes of a lot of kids."


NOTES: Brendan McDonald will meet his team in Los Angeles for the flight across the Pacific Ocean. ... The 10-member squad is made up of players from Montana and Idaho and also features western Montanans Aaron Brodmerkle of Noxon and Nathan Brown of Lincoln. ... Brodmerkle will make the trip with his sister, Cory, who will play in the girls' basketball tournament.

AJ Mazzolini can be reached by email at ajmazzolini@missoulian.com or on Twitter @ajmazzolini.

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