The 1997-1998 Klawock boys basketball team. The author is in the back, the third player from the right. (Courtesy Photo)

The 1997-1998 Klawock boys basketball team. The author is in the back, the third player from the right. (Courtesy Photo)

I Went to the Woods: Region V memories

I Went to the Woods goes to the hardwood.

  • By Jeff Lund For the Juneau Empire
  • Wednesday, January 5, 2022 3:48pm
  • Sports

By Jeff Lund

For the Juneau Empire

At some point during the layover, I thought it was a good idea to leave the airport, walk to the parking lot and do a “snow dance” to bring about a reason for us to stay in Juneau one more night rather than be exiled to Gustavus for the last two games of our basketball trip.

When you’re a senior in high school and you’ve already played two games in Yakutat, two games in one day in Skagway to make up for the late arrival, you’re past your last pair of…socks, that sort of thing seems like the right thing to do.

Of course it didn’t work, and my buddies and I made our way into a small squadron of planes en route to Gustavus, where we were stuck for four days. Maybe it wasn’t that the snow dance didn’t work, there was just a delay.

Anyway, I have only been to Gustavus once, in January of 1999, so rather than memories of glaciers, wildlife and astonishing beauty, I just remember the drifts of snow tall enough to hide a moose, being so bored I set up an email account (my first one) in the library and the gym.

I’d love to go back when things are in bloom.In fact, I’d like another shot at many places in Southeast Alaska and see more than just the school of a 1a or 2a team.

My only lasting memory of Angoon is being up 1 at halftime against an undefeated Eagles team my junior year. We were throttled in the second half.

I remember coach saying, “We need Jeff and Lars to step up” before a game in Hoonah and we responded with four points between us. By the way, that Hoonah team went on an absolute tear that year at the Region V tournament beating Hydaburg in overtime and following that upset win with another over Angoon. (Maybe it was Angoon first then Hydaburg?)

That was the Region V tournament we were housed in a room in the Juneau-Douglas gym that I think is now used for basketballs or as a closet.

I watched a kid score 50 at a tournament in Skagway, another peel off his uniform during a timeout and stomp off the court. I think that was also the trip where a freshman asked if frozen dog poop would shatter if he threw it against the sidewalk since it was -30 degrees.

The funny thing now is that those are all copies of copies of memories, so know who knows if I have it right, though it’s at least accurate enough that someone might read this and say, “Oh yeah, I remember that.”

I can’t help but remember some of those things now that basketball season is underway for this generation of high schoolers. I tell my students how cheated they are by getting to fly around in Alaska Airlines jets accumulating miles that will eventually be redeemed for a ticket to somewhere warm. Did you really have an authentic Southeast Alaska basketball experience if you didn’t play poker or memory with the sugar packets on the Taku, arrive at 4:37 in the morning, have coach drive you up to the school in a musky van to a math room where you finally fell asleep in time to have the bell ring for your opponents’ first period?

Were you ever really a team captain if you didn’t use that status to choose the best spot for your air mattress?

High school basketball was not the high point in my life, but there is nothing wrong with looking back and fondly remembering the way things were. Why the team did how it did, of course, but also the experiences with teammates. Talking together. Being bored together.

It seems like the worse it all was, the better it is. There might be some lesson in there about resilience or perspective, but I’m too focused on whether or not I got any money out of the “snow dance” or if I was just really bored.

The author practices his shot in snowy conditions. (Courtesy Photo)

The author practices his shot in snowy conditions. (Courtesy Photo)