This is the time of year when interest in basketball peaks with high school and college tournaments. Memorable years from prior decades are linked to today.
Such is the case with a former Pelican Rapids player from 1960 who has a grandson and star basketball player in Jamestown, North Dakota.
Wes Skunberg’s grandson, Boden Skunberg, led Jamestown to this year’s North Dakota Class A state boys basketball title, their first championship since 1993.
Skunberg, a 6-foot-5-inch junior who has verbally committed to play college basketball at NDSU, led all scorers with 23 points. Jamestown defeated Fargo Davies 66-49 in the state title game in Bismarck.
His grandfather, Wes, is still remembered by long-time basketball fans in not only Pelican Rapids but also here in Fergus Falls and in other area communities.
“My biggest thrill my senior year was to beat the Otters not once, but twice,” Wes recalled.
He didn’t participate in basketball in Pelican Rapids his freshman year, but joined the ranks the following year.
“I decided to try out for basketball my sophomore year, as my cousin Gary, Wally Scheer, Tom Johnson, Paul Senn and Doug Nord were playing on the varsity level,” he said. “I was fortunate to get a lot of playing time with the B squad and ended up dressing up with the A squad towards the end of the season.”
Fast forward to 1973 when Wes and his wife, Jo, decided to move from Fargo to Clear Lake, South Dakota, where Wes was in the banking business.
“We wanted to move to a small community to raise our children, then ages 5 and 3,” he said. “I accepted employment with Deuel County National Bank.”
Today their son, Eric, father of basketball star Boden, is teaching and coaching in the Jamestown public school system.
Wes and Jo are retired and living in Sioux Falls.
“Eric has spent many hours in the gym with Boden,” Wes said.
Another son of Wes and Jo, Andy Skunberg, is the girls head basketball coach at Jamestown High School.
As for Boden Skunberg who looks forward to his senior year at Jamestown in 2019-20, grandfather Wes points out there is no ‘I’ in the word team.
“Boden and the rest of the Jamestown boys players complemented each other each game and made them all winners in all the 27 victories they had this season,” Wes said. “What a year, unbelievable. You gotta wanna and believe.”
Another Skunberg grandson, junior Cole Hardie, was a member of the Sioux Falls O’Gorman basketball team that lost in the finals of the South Dakota AA state basketball tournament this past weekend.
Wes Skunberg loves this famous quote: “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”
Hats off to Pelican Rapids native Dick Toftely for giving me the tip for this story.
“It’s amazing to see a connection from Wes at Pelican Rapids High School to his grandson Boden at Jamestown, a span of 59 years,” Toftely said.
A few days ago we also talked about the 1960s and the District 23 boys basketball tournament which was held at the Concordia College Fieldhouse in Moorhead. That was when all teams across Minnesota played under a one-class system.
In those days Pelican Rapids, Perham, Battle Lake, Hawley, Barnesville and other area teams competed with bigger schools such as Moorhead, Fergus Falls and Detroit Lakes.
“The 1959-60 Pelican Rapids basketball team was the most successful team up until that time,” Toftely said. “The Vikings played for the very first time in the District 23 championship game against Detroit Lakes in March of 1960.”
Pelican Rapids fell behind in the final minutes of the game. The team lost but was praised for its gallant effort.
It’s good that we now have a four-class basketball system in Minnesota for high school boys and girls.
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.