South Dakota influence is evident in Power Six

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     Several players with connections to South Dakota will be in action during the upcoming season for teams residing in the Power Six men’s basketball conferences. The six leagues are the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern.

     Among those players is Dawson Garcia of Prior Lake, Minn. He is a 6-foot-11 sophomore forward for the University of North Carolina of the ACC. Garcia, before joining the Tar Heels via transfer, averaged 13 points per game last season for Marquette and was chosen as a member of the Big East all-freshman team.

     Garcia’s mother, Stacey (Nelson) Garcia, helped Milbank win the Class A state girls championship in 1987. Garcia is shown with Dave Wagner, executive director of the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame, in the SDBBHOF photo at left.

     Yankton product Matthew Mors is a 6-7 freshman forward at the University of Wisconsin. The Badgers are members of the Big Ten. Mors produced 2,707 career points as a prep with the Bucks.

     Mason Miller is from Germantown, Tenn., and is the son of former Mitchell Kernels standout Mike Miller. He is a 6-8 freshman forward at Creighton University. The Bluejays reside in the Big East. Jace Piatkowski, a 6-3 redshirt freshman guard from Omaha, plays for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers of the Big Ten. His father, Eric, starred as a prep at Rapid City Stevens.

     Stanley Umude and Parker Fox, who both excelled at in-state schools last season, are now with new teams. Umude is from San Antonio, Texas, and transferred from the University of South Dakota to the University of Arkansas. He is a 6-6 graduate senior guard for the Razorbacks of the SEC. Fox, a 6-8 junior forward from Mahtomedi, Minn., left Northern State University for the University of Minnesota of the Big Ten.

These records have withstood the test of time

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     A nationally known sportswriter once addressed the importance of historical perspective in college basketball programs when he wrote this about players: “Young guys may not grasp history, but they understand record books.”

     Progressive programs encourage their current players to learn about those who went before them, and to appreciate and respect the contributions those former players made in helping to establish tradition and culture. The names that appear in a school’s record book are reminders of past glory and of the effort and dedication that has led to today.

     An examination of the oldest single-season records still intact at South Dakota’s colleges reveals they go back to the 1950s. Bob Minick, a Sioux Falls Washington product, went 96 of 121 in 1954 to set the Augustana field goal accuracy record of 79 percent. The oldest free throw accuracy record had been at South Dakota State, set in 1957 by Onida graduate Jim Sutton when he shot 92 percent on 127 of 138. However, that school standard was surpassed in 2011.

     The oldest records that still exist at any South Dakota colleges for scoring average in a season and for rebounding average in a season were both established more than six decades ago. Gayle Hoover (above left), who like Minick played as a prep at Sioux Falls Washington, netted 28.5 points per game for Sioux Falls College during the 1957 season. Cresbard native Bob Swanhorst (above right) pulled down 15.2 rebounds per game for Augustana in 1960.

     Not all colleges in South Dakota list single-season records in all categories. Records for assists, steals and blocked shots were not regularly tabulated until later years. And the 3-point goal was not introduced until the 1980s.

The Hall of Fame Class of 2020

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     An appreciative crowd gathered at the Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls on Aug. 28, 2021, to honor members of the Class of 2020 as they were inducted into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame. Thirteen former greats were honored during the 11th annual induction ceremony and banquet. They bring Hall of Fame membership to 171.

     The Class of 2020 is pictured above at the banquet. From left, front, Dave Thomas, Sarah Mannes Homstad, Jayne (Even) Gust, Jerry Even, and Bart Uhlir representing the late Stanton Uhlir. Back, Dennis Womeldorf, David Perrin representing the late Sam Perrin, Arlo Mogck, Janel Birrenkott, Dick Thornton representing the late Loren Thornton, and Bob Pidde. Not pictured: Austin Hansen and Joe Krabbenhoft. (John Simko Photo)

     Plaques recognizing the Class of 2020 will be displayed in the Hall of Fame area of the Sanford Pentagon.

     In the weeks ahead, the Hall of Fame’s board of directors will be involved in the important process of evaluating nominees for next year’s class of inductees. Those selected for induction will be announced this winter. To see a list of the selection criteria, and to download an official nomination form, click on Nomination Form on this website.

Scoreboard was symbol of basketball at Wallace

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     The scoreboard shown at right was state of the art when it was originally created. The inscription on the plaque beneath the quarter designation reads: ‘Electric Scoreboard Built And Donated by Selmer Hjermstad To The Wallace High School November 1939’

     Wallace basketball fans welcomed the new addition to the town’s gymnasium. It allowed the Bulldog faithful to follow a game’s progress by viewing the information clearly displayed on the homemade scoreboard.

     As the years passed, and newer more modern scoreboards started to appear with regularity in the gyms of schools throughout South Dakota, the old scoreboard at Wallace remained as a reminder of a more basic era …. a time when the work of an industrious local craftsman could produce a product such as this scoreboard that an entire town could enjoy with pride.

     The Bulldogs continued to use the scoreboard for 23 years until Wallace High School closed its doors in 1962. Wallace is about 25 miles northwest of Watertown. This South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame photo was taken recently at the town’s community center, where the scoreboard now adorns a wall along with other WHS memorabilia.

Mailing by HOF sends touch of S.D. to 42 states

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     The South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame believes that our state has always had a unique appreciation of, and respect for, the game. Many who grew up here but now live in other states also cherish their South Dakota basketball memories and heritage.

     One of the most tangible benefits of the newsletters we publish twice yearly is the way in which they allow former South Dakotans to return to their roots and reconnect with South Dakota basketball history. Since the 14th edition (at right) of the free newsletter was published in May, we have been contacted by numerous people wishing to be added to our mailing list. Those new requests have extended the total number of copies we mail past 1,300.

     People from 42 states and the District of Columbia are on our mailing list. Understandably the majority are from South Dakota – 1,091 of the total 1,317. Of our 226 readers from outside the state, 46 reside in Minnesota. We mail to 21 people each in Arizona and Nebraska as well as 17 in Colorado and 13 each in Iowa and Texas.

     Here are states we mail to: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

A loyal Pheasant and a true friend of the HOF

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     A genuine love of basketball. Everlasting pride in his school. An appreciation of the importance of recognizing history and of never forgetting the past. All of those feelings were ingrained in the nature of Dean Lee.

     South Dakota School for the Deaf was home to Dean for 12 years. Unable to hear or speak, he took from his time there a positive, optimistic outlook which served him well upon his return to Forestburg after his graduation in 1952.

     Dean wore his Pheasants jersey with pride and was a standout in basketball and track. He was a freshman in 1949 when he helped School for the Deaf win the District 18 basketball championship. Team members were, from left in the SDSD photo above, Ken Czerny, Bob Ellis, Dana Dillman, Coach Roy Holcomb, Jerry Berke, Dean, and Walt Baumgartner.

     Loyalty to his school was such an important part of Dean that in his will be bequeathed a gift of $25,000 to the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame, of which he had been a longtime friend and supporter. Dean specified in his will that the donation be used to strengthen the Hall of Fame’s endowment to help preserve the legacy of the School for the Deaf. Dean had reached the age of 86 at the time of his death on Sept. 27, 2020. Go to the Newsletter Archives section on the right-hand side of this website to read more about Dean’s life in the 2021 Spring Newsletter.

Take a trip back in time with spring newsletter

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     During earlier times, as basketball was gaining a foothold in South Dakota, conformity in gymnasiums was basically nonexistent. Dimensions of playing surfaces often differed from school to school. So did seating capacities. Many facilities lacked even the most basic features such as scoreboards and adequate locker rooms and showers.

     In the 2021 Spring Newsletter of the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame, readers learn about what was surely one of the most unique and highly unusual gyms not only in the state but in the entire country.

     Another story looks at a one-of-a-kind team from the past that put South Dakota basketball on the international stage. Also in the newsletter is a profile of a record-breaking scorer who dazzled locally and then on the national level.

     The 14th edition of our free newsletter was published by the Hall of Fame and sent on May 3 to the nearly 1,300 people who are on our mailing list. We believe the newsletter will be of interest to everyone who loves basketball.

A royal double: State championship and 30 wins

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     During the 1957 basketball season in South Dakota there were a trio of teams — Cresbard, Alexandria and Lake Norden — that all reached the exclusive 30-win plateau. They combined to amass an overall record of 101-6.

      Cresbard won the Class B state championship that year, after being runner-up the previous season. The Comets finished 38-1 in 1957. The 38 victories registered by Cresbard has been recognized as the national single-season record. Alexandria took third place in the tournament and went 30-1. Lake Norden was sixth and wound up 33-4.

     Winning at least 30 games in a season was rare. But several other teams throughout South Dakota history, in addition to Cresbard in 1957, have capped their seasons by achieving the unique double of claiming Class B state championships and reaching 30 victories. Among teams that have accomplished that feat were Arlington (31-0) in 1938, Emery (30-1) in 1950, Harrold (33-2) in 1951, Hayti (32-2) in 1954, Howard (31-4) in 1956, and Cheyenne Agency (31-3) in 1959.

Kernels, Gazelles lead in state championships

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     When it won its first state basketball championship trophy Mitchell High School was coached by A.A. “Joe” Quintal. The year was 1931 and South Dakota was in its 20th season of conducting state tournaments.

     That was the first of 16 state titles that have been earned by the Kernels, including nine under Coach Gary Munsen between 1984 and 2005. No school in South Dakota has won more championships than Mitchell. Among boys Sioux Falls Washington and Huron are next in line behind the Kernels. The Warriors and Tigers have each claimed 11 titles.

     Yankton is the leader in championships among girls programs. Coach Bob Winter guided the Gazelles to their first title during the inaugural girls season that was held in 1975. Yankton has won nine championships, followed among girls by Sioux Falls Roosevelt which has seven and Sioux Falls Washington and St. Thomas More with six each.

     A new addition on the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame website lists each boys and girls state championship team from the very first boys state tournament in 1912. Readers can also review the total number of state titles won by each school. Also included is a list of the teams throughout history that had 30-win seasons, led by Cresbard of 1957 at 38-1. Look on the right-hand side of this website and scroll down to ‘S.D. State Champions.’

After 50 years De Smet’s reign still impresses

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     It has been 50 years since De Smet was putting the final touch on a basketball masterpiece. Fans in South Dakota still marvel at the proficiency and precision that was displayed by the Bulldogs during a three-season span ending in 1971.

     The championship game of the State Class B Tournament in 1969 ranks among the most memorable in history. Onida protected its undefeated record by using Tom Fox’s 33 points to hold off the Bulldogs 93-90. De Smet was led by Randy Jencks with 30 points. A capacity crowd at the Sioux Falls Arena witnessed a steady procession to the free throw line. Jencks converted 20 of 25 attempts as the Bulldogs went 36-for-51 on free throws. Onida shot 39, making 29.

     After that 22-4 season the Bulldogs of Coach Larry Luitjens had loftier goals. Returning to the championship game in 1970, De Smet capped a 25-1 record by defeating Stickney 76-39 for the first of two consecutive titles. Jencks was a senior in 1971 and missed much of the season with a knee injury. His return in the postseason helped spark De Smet to another championship. The Bulldogs beat Lennox 53-49 in the finals to go 25-2 and settle their three-year mark at 72-7.

     Testimony to De Smet’s talent and depth was the fact that the Bulldogs placing a different player on the all-state first team during each of those three seasons: Tom Hein in 1969, Jencks in 1970 and Terry Long in 1971. Luitjens, the subject of a new book authored by Bob Parsons, went on to coach at Custer and finish his career with a 748-305 record.