In the summer of 1992, before 8th grade, I moved from Hastings, Nebraska (Population 18,000) to Wichita, Kansas (Pop 400,000). As the new kid in school, at Pleasant Valley Middle School, the easiest way for me to make friends, and enemies, was on the court. Throughout the fall during pick up games in gym class I became friends with my future winter teammates. It helped make the transition easier because we shared something in common. That season we finished 4- 2 and second in our division. That year was also the beginning of Luke’s NCAA tournament pool, now known as 63Games. I remember our Coach Mr. Parks having a small television in his classroom and we would check in during the hall breaks. It’s rather special when I look at this photo from 20 years prior. Four of my teammates; Brandon Kasel, Ivan Gomez, Greg Patterson, and Justin Calvert, from that year are still great friends and will be in 63games again this year.
A few weeks ago the five us got together and reconnected with our coaches from that year. Walking back into that middle school after all those years was weird. The gym, lockers, and my vertical were twice as small but the smells were still the same and the memories were still there. You hear about reunions for state championship teams but who goes back and reconnects with their second place 8th grade team? It wasn’t the best team ever but it was the most important one I was ever on. At lunch that day we learned that our coaches first year in coaching was our team. I don’t think any of us were aware of that back then. So it was rewarding to look back and see where we had all gone from that year. Both of our coaches are now working in administration for local high schools and the five of us are married with careers and kids. They all have boys. I only have girls. I’m also the only one who is bald… ???? I personally credit that year to driving me into lifelong friendships, a hard ass work ethic, and an eternal memory that in the end this game of basketball is about having fun and learning how to work as team. It was and is a foundation for the rest of my life. Thanks Coaches, Thanks Teammates, Thanks Basketball.