WOSTER: Lessons replace losses in basketball memoriesEvery year when basketball season arrives, I get all excited.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
Every year when basketball season arrives, I get all excited.
I’m not sure why that is, since my own basketball career was something less than “That Championship Season.” If you don’t count some intramural games at South Dakota State and Creighton, my official basketball career ended on the bench in the old gymnasium at Parkston in March of 1962.
That was the third-place game of the sectional tournament. We were playing the host school, Parkston, after each of us had lost our openers.
I played for the Chamberlain Cubs, you’ll recall, and we had lost the opening tournament game to Mitchell. It was Chamberlain’s first year in the big-school class. We led at the half, but Al Cooper and Doug Barth picked up the pace for the Kernels down the stretch. I think they beat us by a dozen. I believe I scored nine points before I fouled out halfway through the third quarter.
That was a pretty good scoring night for me. I’d only scored in double figures once all season. I usually could count on 10 or 12 rebounds, but I wasn’t what even my sainted mother would have called a pure shooter. I could jump, and run all night, and Coach Byre taught me the fundamentals of boxing out on the boards and playing intense defense. He worked with me every night in practice on those fundamentals.
He worked on my shooting, too, and he was about as good a teacher as a kid could have had. He rang up some awfully good seasons in both high school at Reliance and college at Dakota Wesleyan. I just never had the basic tools to be the kind of scorer he thought I might be.
I’ll tell you this: If it had been in my power to do things exactly the way he showed me, to hold and release the ball the way he did and to score the way he did, I’d have worked every minute of every day I wasn’t in class to please him. I’d have charged the Soviet Army with a cap pistol for Elton Byre if he wanted me to — no questions asked. I just couldn’t become the natural shooter he worked so hard to help me be.
He made me a better shooter than I ever dreamed I could be, though, and he made me a pretty solid defensive player and rebounder. I’ll always be grateful for that, and for that senior season, even if it ended with me on the bench with five fouls — for the second night of the tournament.
We were a goofy team, if you just looked at us on paper.
Bill Miller, a senior guard, was only at Chamberlain High School that one year. He moved in when his dad got a job building Big Bend Dam. We became really good friends, and when we were picked to co-captain the team, you’d have thought we’d won president and vice president of the United States.
Roger Miller, the other senior starter, was a shake-andbake guy decades before the term was used in basketball. He was pretty skinny, but he had a nose for the basketball, and — like the rest of the guys who played for Coach Byre — he would run himself into the tile before he’d give up.
Jerry Melcher was a junior forward, solid and a steady shooter. He and I played in the same dance band, the Bearcats. He played piano. I played guitar. When he got his position at the edge of the lane during a ballgame, nobody moved him.
Ray Strand was a sophomore, stuck into the starting lineup because he could shoot and defend. He had a world of confidence and zero fear. If I grabbed a defensive rebound, turned and heaved it up-court, I knew he’d run the ball down and score.
We had a 13-7 season, not bad, but not championship. I think of the Parkston tournament every year about this time. I don’t pay much attention to the losses.
What I remember is what a great feeling it was to be part of the team, to work hard toward shared goals and to actually achieve some of those goals.
It’s a marvelous game.