More than 2 decades gone, city league hoops return


By Tom Morphet

After a departure that lasted two decades or more, regular city league basketball games have returned, with four men’s teams competing on Friday and Sunday nights at Karl Ward Gymnasium.

On Sunday, more than 30 spectators watched a Harbor Heat team take on Alaska Marine Lines. AML, led by Michael Ganey’s 19 points, topped the Harbor. Michael T. Ward Jr.’s 20 points anchored the bar team’s effort.

“At last, we have something to do again at night,” said spectator Jim Stevens. “It’s been 20 or 25 years since they’ve had city league like this.”

Kyle Fossman, Stuart DeWitt, Harry Rietze and Ganey were behind the revival of the league.

“We split up the players and made the teams as even as we could,” Fossman said. Structured league play, including uniformed refs, rules and league council appealed to players who’ve banged around during open gym games on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

A part of the appeal is that players don’t have to also serve as refs, as happens in pick-up games. “Having the refs set up (in advance) makes it more fun for everybody,” Fossman said.

Having teams of comparable talent make the games fun for players and spectators, said DeWitt, a 1996 Haines High School graduate. “All kinds of people are wanting to play, including a bunch who wouldn’t play at open gym.”

The certainty of having two games per week also is a plus, as is the league’s potential for keeping players in shape for winter tournament, DeWitt said.

A planned reshuffling of players on teams after the New Year may keep the league interesting enough to keep attracting players through the winter, DeWitt said.

Doug Olerud is one of the league’s paid referees, funded through a fee paid by players. Olerud, whose family business sponsored a city league team years ago, said the league is good for the community, including for developing camaraderie among players.

“(Fossman) did a good job putting together the league. It’s good to see the league back in town and people coming out to watch. If we can get more young people moving back to town after college, we can have more things like this happen,” Olerud said.

Haines School superintendent Rich Carlson said the league isn’t under Community Education and won’t supplant open gym basketball on Tuesday and Thursday nights. “We didn’t want to squeeze out open gym, which is for everybody. We wanted to preserve that.”

The league is not being charged for use of the gym and Fossman, a former professional basketball player from Haines, is responsible for opening the gym and keeping the gym clean.

“Kyle’s the point guy. He’s well-respected and well-trusted in the community,” Carlson said. He also credited school activities director Tiana Tayler for finding time for the league, as securing gym time around high school programs in winter can be difficult.

Open gym on Sunday was offered briefly about two years ago.

Joe Parnell, who pushed unsuccessfully to keep Sunday gym hours going, said development of the league is “amazing.” “Kyle Fossman is like Superman with a college degree. He’s great at basketball and he’s great at the bureaucracy.”


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