Area coaches share memories of high-risers
For decades, popular disc jockey Casey Kasem punctuated his broadcasts by saying, "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars." But that's boring.
Few moments in sports are more exciting than a rim-rocking slam dunk, or perhaps a monster kill from a volleyball player levitating higher than his or her peers. Those sudden displays of athleticism often come at unpredictable moments and frequently leave some fun memories.
High-school athletics don't offer as many lords a'leaping as college or the pros, but many area coaches had some lasting recollections:
First-year St. John's Northwestern Military Academy basketball coach Krayton Nash had a particularly vivid memory from his playing days.
"This happened in high school, while I was playing for Homestead against Bay View. Bay View had this kid named Larry House, and he could jump out of the gym. It was an out-of-bounds play, I was guarding the guy on the wing and my friend Cory Scott was guarding Larry.
"Cory's about 6-8, 240 pounds, and Larry is 6-6 or 6-7, probably 225. They bounce the ball in, and I don't know why Cory was out of position, but the ball got right by him. Larry caught the ball, went straight up and dunked it right over the top. Larry was hanging on the rim and had a leg on each side of Cory's head, just resting on his shoulders. It looked like when you hold your child up on your shoulders.
"We were laughing so hard that the coach (Bill Hintz) called timeout to scream at us because he didn't think we were taking it seriously enough. Bay View and Homestead had a good rivalry back in 1997, but that was one of the funniest things I've seen on a basketball court."
When the Oconomowoc boys basketball coach was a sophomore at Muskego High School, he visited a friend at Milwaukee Hamilton for pickup games throughout the summer.
"There was a kid at Hamilton named Chris Jones who wound up playing overseas," Melton said. "I saw this guy with his shoes all untied, and he picks up a basketball, standing under the rim from a still position and does a windmill dunk. He asks, 'Who's got next?'
Melton, who would have been on Jones' team, naturally volunteered eagerly.
"I'm the ball boy, and we're playing Navy with David Robinson," said Tim Richert, formerly the varsity basketball coach at SJNMA and younger brother of postgraduate coach Brian Richert. He was recalling the days when Brian played for St. Leo University in Florida, and father Gary was the coach, facing a team that featured the future Hall of Famer Robinson.
"They did a halfcourt trap, and Brian tried to make a pass, and David Robinson catches the ball in the air. … I see Brian sprinting down the court (to defend), and Robinson just tears it down (for a dunk). The midshipmen are going crazy."
The dunk was so thunderous that the game had to be stopped so the rim could be readjusted. But that's not what caught Brian's eye.
"I feel this tall, and I turn around, and there's my little brother, high-fiving the midshipmen and having a great time."
That wasn't the only brush with future greatness for an area coach. Consider Mukwonago girls coach Todd Frohwirth's tale:
"When I was in college at WCTC we would play basketball in the summer at Hart Park in Wawautosa; all the college guys would show up and play," he said. "Well, one night, (Marquette star and current Boston Celtics coach) Doc Rivers came down the lane and dunked on me.
"I believe he was wearing size 13 shoes."
On the more local level, a handful of players have possessed that rare ability to dunk with ease. Mukwonago's Derek Hasanoglu, who graduated two years ago, threw down his share of dunks, and former MHS standout Ryan Spitzner (1993-95) has YouTube clips dedicated to his dunking abilities during his time with the Indians.
Kettle Moraine had its own dunking dandy in Jeff Zipfel (2008, pictured lower left), who went on to play college football.
"We used to run opening-game lob plays for him; it was unbelievable to watch," said KM coach Brad Bestor. "Against Menomonee Falls in the regional championship, off the opening tip he grabs a lob pass and hammers it down. The place erupted."
But some of the area's best leapers didn't even play basketball. Some of the best work comes on the boys volleyball court.
"In terms of great leapers, Ean Reid does come to mind," said Kettle Moraine boys volleyball coach Tom Gulak, who took the first Lasers team to state in 2008 with Reid (pictured top right) as its top attacker. "Locally, Trevor Novotny (of Catholic Memorial) has to be the best leaper in recent years. The guy wasn't that big - maybe 6-0 - but had a 40- to 42-inch vertical. His hang time, with his athletic ability, was incredible"
Novotny helped CMH win the state title as a junior in 2010 and graduated in 2012.
For comparison, Garth Pischke, a member of the Canadian volleyball team in the 1980s, possessed an uncanny 45-inch vertical. Reid Priddy, a 6-5 member of the USA men's national team, has a 42-inch vertical.
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