The Last Windrow: Basketball is fun to watch, but I did better in the pep club

Columnist recalls basketball days, and reconnects with the sport this year thanks to technology allowing him to watch South Dakota games from his living room.

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Is your bracket busted yet?

No, I'm not talking about your chisel plow bracket. I'm talking about the NCAA's basketball brackets.

Mine is toast.

The biggest high school basketball question here in Minnesota is not which girls or boys teams might win the championships. Rather, it is whether or not the state will receive a roaring blizzard during the tournaments. Somehow spring tournaments bring with them a feeling of a late winter boomer.

I've reconnected with basketball tournaments this year mainly due to the fact that my niece's team, Dakota Valley, and one of my newspaper editor's daughters both played in state tourneys this year. Due to advances in technology, I was able to view both games from my living room.


Say what you will about technology, but this new viewing asset was appreciated. Neither Dakota Valley nor Castlewood won the championship, but both teams were very well worth watching.

My basketball life fell with a thud when I discovered that I couldn't dribble a basketball without looking at it. I could shoot a flying pheasant, pick off ground squirrels at a hundred yards and down a fleeing rabbit with aplomb, but dribbling a basketball the full length of a court was almost impossible.

I did try out for my high school team, but the coach always ended up putting me under the basket awaiting a rebound. Evidently my wide size lent well to rebounding.

I did try out for my high school team, but the coach always ended up putting me under the basket awaiting a rebound. Evidently my wide size lent well to rebounding. I think I shot the ball once and watched it bang off the backboard and away from the net.

My friends, Darrell and Melvin, were accomplished basketball players. They were both well over 6 feet tall and could shoot from anyplace on the court. Melvin was a tall, lanky redhead with heavy bone structure. I learned early on not to be around him when he came down with the rebound. He was all elbows, hips and knees and he meant business.

Even if he liked you he could hurt you.

Darrell, on the other hand, was a finesse player. He was smooth coming down the court and would glide to a space and launch a high, arching shot over the heads of the opposition, and he rarely missed. Dribbling the ball seemed so easy for him. He never looked down and perfected the behind-the-back pass.


One needed to be aware at all times that you might get a rocket to the head if you weren't watching him.

Both of these guys were star players, and one year our team actually made it to a state tournament game. I was not on that team. Instead I headed up the pep club. That I could handle.

In those long ago days, all Iowa schools played each other at the state tournament. Large schools played small schools. It so happened that the school that my Blackhawks were picked to play was Sioux City Central, a very large school. And, Sioux City Central sported an all-state candidate basketball player that year named Dan Smith. He was known to take over a game, and the team's record showed it. They were almost unbeaten that year.

Darrell, Melvin and the rest of the team trotted on the floor on game night with a certain amount of confidence. During warmups they watched Dan Smith hit every shot he took from anyplace on the floor, and his teammates averaged around 6 feet, 4 inches across the board.

After Darrell and Melvin, my Blackhawks kind of struggled for height. I knew we were in trouble.

After the first quarter our hoopsters came limping back to the bench down by 20 points. Darrell had a bruise the size of a grapefruit on his hip. Melvin was bleeding from his ears and had three knots on the top of his red-haired head. Our other players had the look of fear in their eyes, but they played out the game to a score I've managed to forget.

That game made me happy in a way that I couldn't dribble a basketball down the court. But the pep club was fun that night. I could handle that.

That's what I was thinking about last week when I watched those South Dakota girls teams play. I wonder if we'll have a tournament snowstorm in Minnesota this year? It's a big deal.


See you next time. Okay? Stay safe!

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