By Kevin Wyart
A feeling of excitement filled Lumberjack Arena on Saturday as a new basketball season was about to begin at Humboldt State. The Lumberjacks were set to play their first opponent of the season, but it wasn’t against another school. Instead, they opened their 2013-2014 campaign with an exhibition contest against an all-star team of Lumberjack alumni, many of whom have played professionally.
Included on the roster of former Jacks were Brian Morris, Kevin Atkins, Ernie Spada, Will Sheufelt, Zac Tiedeman and Kyle Baxter. Morris and Tiedman were All-American players during their days at Humboldt State leading the Lumberjacks to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. Both have played professionally in Europe after graduation with Morris playing in Romania and Tiedman in the Netherlands. Also included was Isaac Gildea, a McKinleyville native who led the program’s resurgence from 2000-2002 with his ability to consistently drain threes before going to play professionally in Mexico.
Gildea spoke very highly of his playing days at HSU.
“I learned to play the game the right way here [under Tom Wood],” Gildea said.”That helped me tremendously in playing professionally.”
Lumberjacks head coach Steve Kinder said he was also excited to not only get to play an opposing team, but also a team that features former players with professional talent.
“We have some great players returning and will be a formidable opponent for [us],” Kinder said. “This will be great preparation for our road games at Cal and St. Johns. This will be not only a great event for our players, but our fans as well.”
The opportunity to play some of the best players in school history was one the current Lumberjack players said they were going to relish. One of those players is Will Taylor, an Arcata High School graduate who served as a ball boy for former head coach Tom Wood during his childhood. Having grown up watching these players made it all the more special for Taylor.
“It is really great that we get to play against this team of alumni,” Taylor said. “The chance to play against so many great players is an amazing opportunity for us as a team.”
The Alumni went on to win the game 87-70 as the team steadily stretched its lead out through the course of the game. No stats were taken for the game, but contributions on both sides were made by a wide variety of players. Shots dazzled the crowd and dunks drew roars. The game gave the Lumberjacks a glimpse at how they would play against players not on their own team.
While Steve Kinder may not have liked the result on the scoreboard, he was encouraged by the plays his team made, constantly yelling words of encouragement from the bench. Next up for the Lumberjacks are two tough road contests as they travel to Cal and St. Johns in a pair of exhibition games.