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Tales from the old-timer

Basketball Recollections

Back in 1891, about 110 years ago, the YMCA Director in Springfield, Mass., James Naismith, invented the game of basketball, to give the young men an indoor sport in the wintertime. It has been a rousing success in this country and indeed, in worldwide countries.

With a few modifications, it is booming today, and is a major winter sport for high schools, colleges and in the international Olympics.

When I was a student at Peshtigo High School, I caught the hoops virus early, and paid 50 cents for one of the old obsolete basketballs complete with laces and an internal bladder, and happily took it home, balancing it on the handlebars of my skinny- tired bike.

My dad went to my Uncle Ed, a part-time commercial fisherman, and got some fish net, improvised a hoop and backboard, hoisted the homemade apparatus up on our big willow tree in our front yard on Cranberry Avenue in Peshtigo, and there was my crude out door “gym.” The branches hung down pretty low on the right side, so my left hook had a limited range.

All summer long the thump of the basketball could be heard in our house, as I and my friends practiced shots.

Mr. Schacht taught fast break basketball, in which the forwards stayed out past the free throw circle and the guards grabbed the opponents’ rebounds and fired long passes to the forwards streaking down the floor toward our basket.

I remember when the hook shot appeared, and a kid named Neal Coon from Lourdes, now St. Thomas Aquinas Academy, would glide across the circle and mesh his beautiful arching hook shots, maybe scoring 10 or 12 points with them.

Lena had a big guy named Kinziger, who was a star on that team, dominating the rebounds at both ends. He owned a tavern in later years, with the best collection of splendid buck deer I have seen anywhere.

I played on the PHS B Team in 9th and 10th grades, and got around pretty fast and worked on my left hook.

The old-timers like my dad had only what I called a “dump shot,” a set shot sort of underslung with both hands, as the game was really primitive in its techniques in his day.

I was on the team my junior year. My friend Jack Dashner had a bucket on the front of their garage, and and overhang of the eaves made us all shoot with low trajectories, and Jack particularly, avoided arching his shots, firing line drives from out. He did well under the bucket, though, and was a giant for those days at about 6 feet 2 inches tall.

Back then the girls were left out, and had no interscholastic games, and could only play against each other in a kind of distorted set of rules that forbid the guards from crossing the center line, for fear they might get hurt in collisions.

The girls have regular rules now, and play an interscholastic schedule just like the boys.

I had spent most of the time on the bench the last 2 years at PHS. My best night was when I made 4 field goals in a 59-16 victory over Suring in the 1942 season. Suring is no pushover today, though.

I was home from the Army in time to watch that great 1946 team, with Jim Carter, Frannie Steffen, Bo Story, Jim Behnke and Marshall Peterson, having a brilliant season. Back then there were no 5 divisions based on enrollment, so small schools had to fight against schools with enrollments of over 1,000, and we failed to gain the state championship. Carter had great hook shots with both his left and right hands.

The most significant change in shooting was when the jumpshot, using the favored hand and the other hand to steady the shot, migrated from the eastern US, making shorter guys able to offset the tall guys’ advantage. One year a Wisconsin man only 5 feet 10 led the Big Ten in scoring, using the new jump shot.


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