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WOSTER: SDSU pride — let's hear those cowbells clank

Basketball at South Dakota State has come a long way since the evenings when I'd climb up the back of the bleachers in the old "Barn" to join my friends for games.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster

Basketball at South Dakota State has come a long way since the evenings when I'd climb up the back of the bleachers in the old "Barn" to join my friends for games.

The Jacks competed in Division Two's North Central Conference in those days. Now they're Division I, and the athletes compete with and against some of the best in the nation. They've had singular success, too, perhaps no more so than the women's basketball team that is playing this coming weekend in the Sweet 16 national tournament in Portland. Sweet 16? Wow. UCLA, Notre Dame, Baylor, Stanford, South Dakota State.

The teams have broadened their recruiting, but they still travel the region, sometimes landing a Nebraska kid like Mike Daum, who finished his basketball career on the all-time college scoring list a couple of spots ahead of Oscar Robertson from Cincinnati. And no matter who gets recruited, there's still a place for South Dakota kids, as Mitchell's Macy Miller and several of her teammates have shown again this year.

I'm not a guy who runs around singing the school song. I don't jump out of the crowd and prance around during the Hobo Day parade. When I hear the clank of a cowbell, I think of Christopher Walken and that Saturday Night Live skit with Blue Oyster Cult. But I have to tell you, I enjoyed watching the SDSU team play Syracuse the other night. They played with skill and poise. More than that, they showed respect for themselves, their teammates and their opponents.

I started following Jackrabbit sports back in high school. In those days, the teams represented South Dakota State College, and most of the players were South Dakota kids, with a mix of western Minnesota athletes slipping across the border. Most of the athletes seemed like decent young people. It's always fun to see those kinds of kids do well.

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When I reached campus in the fall of 1963, the book store sold SDSC sweatshirts. I wish I still had the first one I bought. I probably wore it a time or two when I climbed the back of the bleachers.

No, we weren't supposed to climb the bleachers that way. If we were caught, we were ordered to use the steps or leave the gym. Leaving the Barn and missing the game wasn't really an option. Theoretically, the steps up the rows of seats were an option. In fact, though, so many fans packed those hard, wooden seats that it was almost impossible to find a clear path from bottom to top. Many a game night, the fire marshal probably should have shut the place down and sent everybody home. That never happened, so the Barn remained packed and loud and a rollicking good time.

Don Jacobsen of Lake Norden played there. He was the MVP of the 1961 national Division II tournament. Sid Bostic, of Pipestone, Minnesota, played there. He made the game-winning shot when State won it all in 1963. "Leaping'' Lee Colburn from Brookings played there, flying around the gym with moves and athleticism far ahead of his time. Opponents? Zelmo Beaty from Prairie View, Texas, played in the Barn, before joining the NBA's Atlanta Hawks. Phil Jackson from the University of North Dakota played there before he joined the NBA's New York Knicks. When he spread his long arms on defense, it looked like a B-52 had landed in the middle of the Barn.

Between the time I first registered for classes and my graduation in June of 1966, the college became a university. I bought a new sweatshirt. My diploma reads South Dakota State University. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Printing and Rural Journalism.

I'm sure the university no longer offers that rather quaint degree, but it still turns out reporters, editors and photographers. The Barn no longer hosts ball games. Since about 1973, those events have taken place in Frost Arena, a bigger, brighter, cleaner place. People no longer climb the back of the bleachers, but they pack the place for games.

I don't get to many games these days. I follow the teams, though. It's still fun to see decent young people do well.

Related Topics: BASKETBALLTERRY WOSTER
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