So long to my Sunday night basketball pals
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Five years ago, Glenwood Springs Middle School physical education teacher Blake Risner turned his usual Sunday night open gym format into a 4-on-4 basketball league. Six teams signed up to compete, with games being played full-court, using the side baskets.
Risner created the league to help quench the competitive thirst of the multitude of roundballers who attended his open gyms. He gave each team the name of a color and numbered jerseys to match.
“This league was born from a group of players who had been together for many years,” said Risner. “The players in this league love the game and love to play.”
With Risner’s busy teaching schedule, as well as his head coaching duties of the highly successful Glenwood Springs High School track and field teams, there was little free time to spend with his family. Thus, he made the decision to call the league good after Year 5.
For me, a regular at open gym and a five-year veteran of the league, there will be a Sunday night void to fill next fall, but I will take a load of treasured memories into the dreaded abyss of hoops retirement.
I will miss my Red team (Risner, Craig Amichaux, Mike Schubert, Scott Nykerk, Jake Wilkins, and Andy Ormsby.) The roster was filled with talented players, so it’s no wonder that we won the league title all five years.
What made being with the Red so special is that we actually played together as a team and passed the ball, something that is foreign in most city leagues, where 1-on-1 play is the norm.
A fews years back, Blue team member Daniel Koski, with a big smile on his face stated, “You guys crack me up. You actually run an offense.”
We had some epic battles with Koski and Mike Picore’s Blue team through the years. Sometimes things got a bit heated, but it was always fun.
I don’t think I’m going to miss Gold team captain Greg Hire’s screens and blockouts on me. Greg always manages to knock me flat on my skinny buttocks, and then says to me, quite matter of factly: “Mike, quit flopping!”
Maybe the reason I get so mad is because I know he is right. I never do draw a foul call because I haven’t perfected the flop yet, but I’ll keep working on it.
Hire, Preston Seymour, and the rest of the Gold team, proved to be a big thorn in our basketball side, beating the Red twice in the season-ending tournament championship. Hire coached his team well, just like he did the Glenwood Demon boys for several years.
The Nicest Guy in the League award has to go to another Gold-teamer, Brian Blair.
Blair, who teaches English and coaches soccer and basketball at Coal Ridge High School, was always there to offer a hand when I was crawling up off the floor. Blair’s a good kid, but I won’t miss that sticky defense he always plays on me.
Hats off to Silver team captain Jim Yellico, who molded a bunch of seasoned (over the hill?) old guys into a pretty good team by season’s end. Silver’s Greg Kontour can still swish the net a little bit, and Steve Casey will bang with you all over the court.
Casey has the most congenial way of complaining to the officials that I have ever seen. You almost feel bad about calling a foul on him. Casey is also one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.
I also have to mention the Maroon team’s Travis Fiscus. He has a love for the game of basketball that always does my heart good. Fiscus and I share a personal flaw that provides conversation and a common bond beyond the basketball court: We’re both Dallas Cowboys fans.
Not everyone’s perfect.
Many thanks to the Orange’s Arturo Lomeli for keeping his team together during the season. Lomeli had the unenviable task of officiating the tournament championship game. Lomeli did a nice job, and we all thank him for having the courage to do it by himself.
There is a person in the Sunday night league who never misses a shot. That would be our score and clock keeper Kenzie Kuhn. Kuhn, who plays a pretty fair game of hoops for the Glenwood Lady Demons, often leaves her clock duties to shoot around between games, and I always find myself watching her in awe. This girl can play!
Kuhn has endured – and seemed to enjoy – watching five years of the Sunday nighter’s pushing, fouling, lazy defense, questionable shot selection and colorful use of adjectives. Thanks, and best of luck to you, Kenzie.
A job well done to the Blue team and league MVP Ben Blaeser, who defeated the Red in this year’s tournament championship. It was run and gun basketball, the way the game should be played, and the best team won.
So long, and thank you again, Blake.
We all enjoyed playing and are forever in your debt for all the long hours and hard work you put in. Just like you envisioned, it was a classy league with classy people.
You’re the man!
Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Post Independent
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