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Legendary coach, winner of 748 games, has died

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        South Dakota’s all-time winningest boys basketball coach, Larry Luitjens, has died at the age of 81. Luitjens was living in Sioux Falls at the time of his death on June 10.

        Luitjens’ teams took the court in 1,053 games during the nearly 50 years he spent as a head coach. They won 71 percent of those games, achieving a record of 748-305.

        During his career Luitjens guided seven teams to state championships. De Smet won Class B titles in 1970 and 1971 under Luitjens. Later at Custer he led the Wildcats to Class A championships in the seasons of 1990, 1992, 1993, 1998 and 2002.

        The National Federation of State High School Associations began its National High School Hall of Fame for athletics in 1982. Luitjens was inducted in 2012.

        Luitjens graduated from Britton in 1960. He played four seasons under Coach Bob Wachs at Northern State University. Luitjens helped the Wolves win two South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference co-championships. Northern and Dakota Wesleyan shared the title in 1963 while the Wolves and Black Hills State were co-champions in 1965.

Class of 2023 features 13 of state’s former greats

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        Thirteen former players who all had superlative careers in the state will be inducted into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame during the 13th annual banquet to be held on the afternoon of Aug. 26 at the Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls.

        South Dakota’s career scoring leader, Louie Krogman (left) of White River, and three pairs of siblings are among the standouts who comprise the Class of 2023. Chad and Scott Boekelheide excelled while at Northwestern, Jeana (Hoffman) Krome and Jenna (Hoffman) Kubesh were stalwarts for Mitchell, and Paige and the late Derek Paulsen starred at Custer.

        Derek Paulsen and his girlfriend, Custer cheerleader Eva Wahlstrom, are in the photo at right which was taken at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. The Wildcats had just won the 1997 Lakota Nation Invitational and Derek was named tourney MVP. Derek and Eva lost their lives in a tragic car accident on July 30, 1999.

        The Hall of Fame will recognize Miller of 1972 as a Team of Excellence. The undefeated Rustlers will be honored during the banquet. Miller won the Class A state championship under Coach Bob Dockter and achieved a 24-0 record.

        Ticket and banquet information will be announced soon on this website. Following is a look at the Class of 2023:

        CHAD BOEKELHEIDE, Northville (Northwestern 1991): The Wildcats won Class B state titles in 1989 and 1991 with the Boekelheide twins manning the backcourt. Chad averaged 27 points per game as a senior and had a career total of 1,633. The Boekelheides played at Northern State on teams that compiled a 106-28 overall record from 1992-95.

        SCOTT BOEKELHEIDE, Northville (Northwestern 1991): A 25-0 season in 1991 settled Northwestern’s four-year record at 93-10. Scott averaged 19 points per game as a senior. He had 1,466 career points and a school record 178 assists. The Boekelheides helped Northern take second in the NAIA National Tournament in both 1993 and 1994.

        BRENDA (DAVIS) COMSTOCK, Louisville, Colo. (Tri-Valley 2000): During her career Comstock led the Mustangs to a record of 76-18. She averaged 20 points per game as a senior and totaled 1,648 career points. Comstock scored 1,688 points at South Dakota State and helped the Jackrabbits win the NCAA Division II national championship in 2003.

        DAN FREIDEL, New London, Minn. (Armour 1980): The Packers won 64 consecutive games, and went 97-3 overall, during Freidel’s career. Armour won Class B state titles in 1978 and 1979. Freidel averaged 23 points per game as a senior, shooting 58 percent, and was a lock-down defender. He was a basketball and football standout at Augustana.

        ARNOLD JOHNSON (Brookings 1953): The late Johnson was a mainstay on the Brookings team that produced a 21-1 record and won the Class A state championship in 1952. The following season the Bobcats took fifth place. Johnson was chosen to the all-tourney team both years. He competed in basketball and football at South Dakota State.

        LOUIE KROGMAN, White River (White River 2008): In amassing 3,521 points, Krogman capped his record-breaking prep career by averaging 33 points per game as a senior. The Tigers won the Class B state title that season. Krogman was Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year. He scored 1,644 points at the University of South Dakota.

        JEANA (HOFFMAN) KROME, Sioux Falls (Mitchell 2004): Krome played in six Class AA state tournaments with the Kernels, winning the championship in 2003. She was Gatorade Player of the Year in 2004 when she averaged 21 points per game. Krome’s career total was 1,565 points. She was an NCAA Division II All-American for USD in 2008.

        JENNA (HOFFMAN) KUBESH, Canistota (Mitchell 2004): Gatorade Player of the Year in 2003, Kubesh helped Mitchell win four ESD Conference titles. She averaged 16 points per game as a senior with a career total of 1,497 points. Kubesh and her twin sister Krome led USD to second in the NCAA Division II National Tournament in 2008.

        ERIC LAPPE, Spearfish (Harrold 1992): In one of the most memorable state championship games in history, Lappe scored 40 points as the Cardinals rallied late to down Warner 84-79 in 1992. He averaged 29 points per game that season and was chosen co-Mr. Basketball. Lappe had 2,055 career points. He played collegiately at Mount Marty.

        HARRY MARSKE (Andover 1955): The late Marske was a dominating force at 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds. He scored 914 points as a senior, averaging 35 per game. His high game was 51. Marske was all-South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference four years at Northern where he totaled 1,676 points. He was selected by Detroit in the NBA draft.

        DEREK PAULSEN (Custer 1999): The late Paulsen had completed his junior year at Custer and was being recruited by several Power Five Conference schools when he lost his life at age 17. He led the Wildcats to the Class A state title as a sophomore. Custer then finished third in 1999 when Paulsen was a junior and averaged 18 points and seven assists.

        PAIGE PAULSEN, Williamston, Mich. (Custer 2003): After ending his career with 1,790 points, Paulsen was named Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year. Custer won the Class A state title when he was a junior. The Wildcats were second in 2003 when Paulsen averaged 25 points per game. He played at Northern Illinois and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

        JORDAN (STAPP) PROEFROCK, Sturgis (Newell 2004): A rare five time Class A all-stater, Proefrock scored 2,815 career points. She netted 24 points per game as an eighth-grader and in the next three season averaged 25, 29 and 29. Then as a senior she scored 30 points per game as Newell went 18-3. Proefrock played at Jacksonville State (Ala.).

Return to the 1950’s with our spring newsletter

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        During stages of the two-class era of South Dakota basketball there were between 250 and 300 schools residing in Class B. All had the same goal of being one of the eight teams still standing after the region tournaments were completed. It was a challenge that was especially daunting for the smallest schools in the state.

        Legendary coach Q.C. Miles and all-stater LaMoine Torgerson (right) represented a high school in 1958 that had only 39 total students. There were just 13 boys in the top three grades. So when Forestburg overcame the long odds and qualified for the state tournament for the first time in school history it gave the entire town, with a population of 124, reason to celebrate.

        Read about the excitement generated by a first-ever trip to the “B” in the 2023 Spring Newsletter which was mailed on May 3 by the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame. It is the 18th edition of our biannual free newsletter.

        Another story relives one of the most notable games in girls basketball history in the state. It matched two elite powers in an unforgettable 1980 showdown that brought increased attention and admiration to the girls sport. Also in the newsletter is a feature story about a major upset in the northeast that shocked South Dakota basketball fans from border to border in 1949.

S.D. Basketball loses friend with death of Tobin

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        A steadfast friend of South Dakota basketball died on March 31. Leon Tobin of Aberdeen was 87. Tobin graduated from Waubay High School in 1953. He played varsity basketball four years for the Dragons. With bachelor’s and master’s degrees earned from Northern State University he dedicated 47 years of service to education.

        During his career Tobin spent time as a teacher, principal, superintendent and special education director. He was the longtime superintendent at Warner.

        Tobin officiated nearly 1,700 high school basketball games, including 23 state tournaments during the two-class era in South Dakota. He also worked many college games in the more than 30 years that he was active as an official.

        During the important early formative years of the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame, Tobin was a member of the organization’s board of directors. He and his wife Virginia made the initial financial commitment several years ago that was instrumental in helping to establish the Hall of Fame’s endowment fund.

        That endowment has allowed the Hall of Fame to implement a strategic plan that will enable an adequate level of financial health for the organization as it moves forward. The goal is to ensure that the Hall of Fame has the necessary resources well into the future to fulfill its mission of honoring and preserving the basketball history of South Dakota.

All-state in South Dakota can be generational

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        Basketball is a common thread that for many decades has been woven into family histories throughout South Dakota. Dedication to the game is often passed along from parents to their children and sometimes even beyond.

        Since the 1955 season South Dakota, after the conclusion of its state tournaments, has selected all-state teams. The purpose of that process, as it was then and remains today, is to recognize the state’s best players. Many all-staters from years in the past have watched as their own sons and daughters have also developed into all-state players.

        But it is exceedingly rare for three generations of a family to ascend to first team all-state.

        Sixty years ago Ray Schultz of Freeman was chosen as a member of the Class B all-state first team of 1963. His son Scott also was a standout for the Flyers and was first team all-state in 1985. Scott’s son Sawyer carried on the tradition when he was named to the Class B all-state first team for Bridgewater-Emery after the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons.

        And a three generational all-state family connection can even end up outside the borders of South Dakota. Tom Miller was Class B first team all-state in 1967 for Stickney when he averaged 34 points and had 11 games over 40. His son Mike starred at Mitchell and was Class AA first team all-state in 1996, 1997 and 1998. Mike’s son Mason, now playing at Creighton, was a Tennessee first team Class AAA all-stater in 2021 while attending Houston High School.

A backcourt pair that should never be forgotten

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        Bob Shelden and Dennis Busch started out as competitive high school rivals within the Eastern South Dakota Conference. They later joined forces and became collegiate backcourt mates who shared in one glorious season. Tragically the lives of both Shelden and Busch were ended far too soon.

        Talented all-state players, Shelden at Brookings and Busch at Huron, they played on outstanding teams. Shelden (right) led the Bobcats to the State Class A Tournament in 1958. Busch (left) and the Tigers entered that tourney with an undefeated record and claimed the championship to finish 22-0.

        Three years later, in 1961, Shelden and Busch were both 6-foot-1 sophomore guards at South Dakota State. They comprised the starting backcourt on a team that won the North Central Conference and upset the country’s top rated team, Prairie View A&M (Texas), in the championship game of the Midwest Regional.

        South Dakota State went on to take third place in the NCAA College Division National Tournament in Evansville, Ind. Just eight months later Shelden was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. He was only 21 when he died on April 23, 1962. Busch’s death was the result of an accident while he was working a summer job on an Interstate 90 highway project.  He was 23 when he was electrocuted at a work site near Humboldt on Aug. 26, 1964. Busch had been planning to return to South Dakota State in the fall in order to complete his master’s degree.

        Memories of Shelden and Busch live on today. The Dennis Busch Memorial Award has been presented annually to an outstanding athlete at Huron High School. And Bob Shelden Field is an important part of the athletic landscape in Brookings, having served a variety of valuable purposes for Brookings High School, the city, and for South Dakota State.

South Dakota 2,000 Club got first member in 1951

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        There are now more than 70 boys and girls who have scored at least 2,000 points during their high school basketball careers in South Dakota. But no player in state history had yet reached that monumental total as the 1951 season was concluding.

        The State Class B Tournament was held in Mitchell and a 6-foot-6 senior from Kadoka was threatening to become the first South Dakota prep to reach the milestone.

        The Kougars arrived at the Corn Palace with their star center Stanton Uhlir (left) having already amassed 1,931 points. He needed 69 more in Kadoka’s three tournament games in order to get to 2,000. That turned out to be no problem.

        Uhlir netted 92 points, including 50 in one game, as Kadoka took sixth place.

        Finishing his career with 2,023 points, Uhlir became the first documented member of the state’s 2,000 Club. That set in motion an 11-year period in which a dozen more players joined Uhlir. They were Milt Sorenson (2,480 points) of Wakonda in 1953, Dale Hall (2,325) of Ravinia in 1954, Jerry Wingen (2,333) of Canova in 1956, Terry Slattery (2,074) of Salem St. Mary in 1956, Don Jacobsen (2,825) of Lake Norden in 1957, Bob Swanhorst (2,402) of Cresbard in 1957, Cliff Albee (2,051) of Cresbard in 1957, Phil Miedema (2,040) of Hitchcock in 1958, LaMoine Torgerson (2,381) of Forestburg in 1959, Jim Dyer (2,256) of Willow Lake in 1960, Dave Fischer (2,049) of Wall in 1961, and Ron Bertsch (2,012) of St. Lawrence in 1961.

Women from S.D. had immediate impact in NAIA

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        The very first National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics women’s national basketball tournament was held in March of 1981. By then the NAIA had already been crowning a men’s champion each season since 1937, a span covering 44 years.

        There were around 500 schools in the NAIA in 1981. When the inaugural women’s tournament tipped off, the Northern State Wolves were poised to notify the nation about the high quality of players produced by South Dakota high schools.

        Northern was one of eight schools to qualify for the tournament. There were 12 players on the Wolves roster and 11 had been prep standouts in South Dakota. The pre-tourney media guide listed Northern starters as Lori Burkhardt of Yankton, Cathy Coyle of Belle Fourche, Deb Esche of Aberdeen, Janelle Frank of Wolsey and Wendy Swanhorst of Cresbard. Burkhardt was the leading scorer at 17.3 points per game.

        The Wolves were coached by Curt Fredrickson (right) and beat Missouri Western in the quarterfinals at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo. In the semifinal round Texas Southern topped Northern. The Wolves then defeated Azusa Pacific (Calif.) 74-65 in the third-place game to end 28-4.

        By 1992 the NAIA had split from one class into Division I for the larger schools and Division II for the smaller. It reverted back to one class in 2021. During the two-class era Fredrickson and his Wolves emerged as the first dominant team in Division II, winning national titles in 1992 and 1994. Fredrickson was an all-state basketball and football player at Aberdeen Central. A graduate of Northern, he coached the Wolves for 39 seasons with an overall record of 846-306.

Legends speak in the pages of ‘First Person’

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     For more than forty years Mike Henriksen has been one of the grand storytellers of all aspects of sports in South Dakota.

     Known for his sincerity and measured demeanor, Henriksen has earned widespread admiration because of a thoughtful and reasoned approach to broadcasting. His radio presence since 1978 has connected listeners with many popular programs including Sportsmax, South Dakota Sports History, and Calling All Sports.

     Henriksen (shown in submitted photo) lives in Harrisburg and is a native of Hampton, Neb. He has turned some of his most memorable radio interviews into two entertaining books. The first was published in 2018. The second book, First Person: Legendary South Dakota Sports Stories Volume 2, is new and is now available for purchase.

     There are 13 different segments in the book. Each recreates a Henriksen long-form interview with a different South Dakota sports luminary. Included are well-known basketball personalities Garney Henley, Chad Lavin, Terry Slattery, Marv McCune, Larry Luitjens, Gordie Fosness and Carl Pierson.

    The book would be a welcome addition to the library of anyone who follows sports in South Dakota. Copies can be ordered online at www.sportsmaxradio.com. Cost is $23 which includes tax and shipping. Copies also can be purchased at book signings now being held throughout the region. To view locations follow Henriksen on facebook and twitter.

Reflecting on the importance of coaches

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     Throughout the storied history of high school basketball in South Dakota there have been many, many exceptional coaches. The influence those coaches impart on young athletes often can be life-changing. Lessons learned about qualities such as character, integrity and sportsmanship can endure long after playing careers have ended.

     A story examining the importance of coaches is featured in the 2022 Fall Newsletter by the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame which was mailed Oct. 27. Profiled is the late George Houk (right), who compiled an unprecedented record while stressing positive values which helped his players on their journeys toward adulthood.

     The 17th edition of the newsletter also includes several other interesting stories. One is about a town whose pride in the accomplishments of its two high school teams was recognized across the state. Another remembers a championship won by a team with uncommon physical prowess. Also in the newsletter is a story about a game in which four players combined to keep the scoreboard numbers constantly changing.

     Two free newsletters are published yearly by the Hall of Fame, in the spring and in the fall. To be included on the mailing list simply click on Viewpoint at the top of this website and provide us with your name and your address.