For those of us old enough to remember back to the 1960s and ‘70s and even into the ‘80s, I pose the following question: What annual event in the state of South Dakota was the Super Bowl, Final Four and World Series all rolled up into one? The answer would be the State B Basketball Tournament. Not only the weekly papers in our state but very importantly, the daily papers in our larger cities, devoted entire issues or several days to State B coverage.
KELO Television and South Dakota Public Broadcasting were there from beginning to end, and much like the newspapers, they did stories about which grandpa played for Murdo, which dad started at South Dakota State in 1954 plus where they are now and what they are doing. Add the formal news coverage, and there was the daily, almost non-stop coffee shop conversations regarding the best team ever and who played on that team. You can but imagine the differences of opinion in that regard.
During those wonderful years, the Sioux Falls Arena seated about 9,500 for basketball, and if you had a ticket to all sessions, well, you were amongst the fortunate. In fact, I think I finally won the heart of my dad-in-law, Shorty Jorgenson, a huge and extremely knowledgeable basketball fan, when, as a part of the KELO on-air team, I gained access to lower level seats for any and all of the games. Sort of surprising considering my on-air exposure rested with the daily market report from the Sioux Falls Stockyards. Whatever the reason, the old Stockyards guy never turned down the tickets when they were offered.
“Holy buckets, Shorty, how did you get those great seats?” He would proudly answer each and every time the question was asked, “Oh, I know somebody who knows somebody.”
Speaking of Shorty and his farm east of Lake Norden, can any of us ever forget the prowess of a farm kid from that part of the country by the name of Don Jacobsen, who many fans still consider the best ever not only in high school but at SDSU? They probably have not seen Mike Daum, but until they do, “Jake” is not a bad choice!
A coffee buddy of mine, Mike Begeman, who played for Parker and then four years at Augustana University, will be inducted into the High School Basketball Hall of Fame March 23 and rightfully so. Who can ever forget the classic battles between Mike and Hamlin County star Steve Brown. In fact, those two continued their excellence when one of the big basketball rivalries in our state involved Augie and the Jackrabbits and each was a four-year star on their respective teams.
As an aside, when Steve was inducted into the SDSU athletic hall of fame a few years ago, I approached him with, “I have always wanted to ask you, who was the better shooter, you or Begeman?” Without hesitation he replied, “Oh, that’s easy. I was. I shot more than he did and practice makes perfect.”
I’m not certain as to accuracy in the comment, but when I relayed Steve’s thinking to Mike, he thought a minute, grinned a bit and changed the subject. By the way, they were then and continue to be good friends, which is also what South Dakota High School Basketball was and still is all about.
It is important to remember that high school basketball in South Dakota is still a big deal and again this year the big B will be at the Barnett Center in Aberdeen. I know there have been more than a few conversations regarding moving the B, probably to Sioux Falls. I’m but one opinion with limited knowledge but based on all that I hear from those who faithfully attend each year, Aberdeen is where the granddaddy of our boys’ tournaments belongs. Besides, Shorty is no longer with us and I’m no longer at KELO. Yup! Aberdeen seems right to me!
As I sit in my little office (Sara’s old bedroom), writing this column, the snow continues to fall. Although I don’t much care for it, I don’t have chores to do, the coffee and cookies are great and as we like to say in South Dakota, “You don’t have to go too far North to run into a whole lot more.”
Be safe in your daily labors and thanks a bunch for all that you do.