Concord to welcome back players from '88 and '90 state runner-up teams Friday.
Goshen coach Brian Bechtel is looking forward to the atmosphere that could accompany Shawn Kemp’s scheduled return to Concord High School’s McCuen Gym — particularly since Bechtel won’t have to guard Kemp this time.
Bechtel’s Redskins will provide the opponent when the Minutemen couple their varsity boys basketball game with a reunion of Concord’s 1988 and 1990 state runner-up clubs on Friday, Jan. 10.
Kemp, a senior superstar on the 1988 team who went on to six NBA All-Star appearances, is among the players who have indicated their intent to attend the reunion.
Concord athletic director Dave Preheim said Wednesday that he believes it will be Kemp’s first visit to a Minuteman game since Kemp graduated from high school.
As long as Kemp doesn’t suit up, Bechtel will be thrilled to be part of the novelty.
“I think it will be great for our players to be a part that environment,” Bechtel said. “We’ve talked about it since we found out (in November) he would be coming. If (weather’s not an issue), it might be one of those rare chances anymore to play in front of a full house.”
Those were the kinds of houses Bechtel played in front of when he was a Fairfield player going against Concord and Kemp.
A 1989 Fairfield graduate, Bechtel got the opportunity to face Kemp in both his sophomore and junior years, games that the Minutemen won 63-41 and 77-65.
Bechtel’s recollections remain vivid.
“Yeah, I remember trying to guard him in one of those games,” said Bechtel, a 5-foot-10 guard, who scored 1,019 career points, “because my coach told us I was the best post defender we had, so, just a 12-inch disadvantage there. And then I remember another time playing the back side of a zone and Jamar (Johnson, Concord’s point guard) threw a ball I swore he was throwing out of bounds, and it was an alley-oop to Shawn that he must’ve grabbed at the top of the backboard. It felt like he was going to land on my shoulders.”
Bechtel said he also remembers “all the teachers at Fairfield coming to the Concord game, and there were several among them that never came to games, and me — I guess out of competitiveness — being mad that they would come to that game and none of the others.”
Competitiveness figures to be a factor again Friday. It always is in Northern Lakes Conference games, and both the Minutemen (4-3) and Redskins (4-5) are desperate to avoid slipping to 0-2 in league play.
“It’s a big rivalry game and the records usually don’t mean diddly-squat,” Concord coach Steve Austin said. “Losing Brady (Bechtel, the Redskins’ injured point guard, out another two to four weeks) does hurt them a little, but they’re still well-coached, No. 23 (Deric Haynes) can get hot and their inside game is coming along.”
“Just (Filip) Serwatka and (Ramon) Johnson are a lot to handle,” Bechtel said of Concord’s two leading players. “You’ve got a 6-6 kid who hits 3s and posts well in Serwatka, and then Ramon’s so good. You back off, he can hit the 3, and then he scores a ton on driving and getting to the line. We’ll have to try to make him take tough shots without fouling him.”
Per Preheim, the returning players from the 1988 and 1990 clubs will be introduced at halftime of the varsity game in what averages to a 25-year reunion for the two groups.
As of Wednesday, just six players had formally responded that they would be able to return, but Preheim remained hopeful that there would be more than that many present.
Jamar Johnson, a standout for both state runner-up clubs, said Wednesday by phone from Arizona that it was only recently that he learned of the event and that was not sure he would be able to attend.
The two teams that each went 28-1 were featured in an Elkhart Truth Twine Line last winter as Elkhart County’s two best clubs of at least the last 25 years (1990 was tabbed No. 1, 1988 was No. 2). Coach Jim Hahn leaned to the ’90 group as the better of the two, while Johnson opted for the ’88 edition.
As for Kemp — the area’s all-time leading scorer with 2,134 points and the lone four-time Truth All-Area first-team selection ever — Friday’s game is just part of his weekend itinerary.
He’s slated to co-host a youth basketball camp from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Jan. 11, at McCuen with CHS coaches. Cost is $20, the event is open to students in grades 2-8 from all districts, and individuals may register the day of the event. Doors open at 9:15 a.m.
A pre-registration also is set for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday outside McCuen, and T-shirts are guaranteed only to the first 180 registrants.
Among other games this week:
Elkhart Christian (5-1) hosts Triton (4-3) Thursday, Jan. 9, in a showdown of Class 1A powers.
The Trojans have beaten the Eagles 11 straight times, the closest of those meetings being last season’s 44-37 decision.
Triton is ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press 1A poll, while ECA is No. 11.
Northridge (8-1) hosts Warsaw (7-2) Friday, Jan. 10, in a battle of NLC contenders.
Each is 1-0 in league play. The Raiders’ lone blemish overall this season is their 68-65 loss Dec. 28 at Penn (7-0), while the Tigers head to Middlebury on a six-game winning streak.