No Hall of Fame for '97 Blue Valley North Champs
Disappointed. Overlooked. A bit embarrassed.
Sound like high school all over again?
Well, it ought to because — cue music for Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” — on Friday night, it appears that a planned 20-year reunion of the only Blue Valley North High School boys basketball team to win a Kansas state championship will turn out to be much less than that.
Last year, Michael Garry, 38, the co-captain in 1997 of the 5A champion Blue Valley North Mustangs, organized the reunion in the expectation that the team also would be inducted into the high school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Tennis pro Jack Sock, a 2011 graduate who won a gold medal in doubles at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, was inducted in December 2015.
But that honor wouldn’t be extended to the basketball team, Garry learned in December. As a result, the reunion, which he had hoped would bring together many of the team’s 12 players, will only include enough for a game of one-on-one.
“You’re looking at them,” Jason Bass, 37, who played forward as a senior on the 1997 team, said Thursday morning as he sat with Garry at a coffee shop.
On Friday, Bass and Garry are expected to be the only players attending a recognition ceremony during the 7:30 p.m. game against rival Blue Valley West.
Garry, now a married insurance salesman with three children, lives in Overland Park. Bass, who is also married with two children and works for an advertising agency, lives in Olathe.
Garry said more members of the team would have come had the team been inducted. But that changed when it became clear that they would not be joining the Hall of Fame. Garry said he was shocked.
“I never thought they would say no. It just never crossed my mind that ‘no’ was even coming out of their mouths,” Garry said.
Garry noted that two members of the championship team, Tom Strohbehn and Jacob Hyde, rank second and third on the school’s list of all-time scorers. Bass is seventh.
Strohbehn, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003, is third of 10 in career rebounds and Bass is eighth.
But the all-time record holder in boys basketball at the school was not part of the championship team. It was Casey Crawford, class of 2006, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.
Corresponding by e-mail to Garry, Blue Valley North’s athletic director and associate principal Mickey Masterson explained the team’s non-induction.
“(I)t is not personal to you or the members of the team,” Masterson told Garry in an e-mail, adding that Friday’s recognition ceremony is meant to honor the team.
Blue Valley North has 57 other teams that have won state championships since the high school opened in 1986, Masterson wrote. Although the 1996-1997 team is the only boys basketball team to win a state championships, other state championships have been won in baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, tack and field, gymnastics, cross-country and swimming and diving.
Girls tennis, in fact, has won 14 state championships.
“(N)ot one of those teams are in the Hall of Fame,” Masterson wrote.
Since 1993, 39 former students have been inducted for their individual achievements, with inductees decided upon by a committee of coaches and teachers.
“We have had this discussion for years about teams,” Masterson said by telephone Thursday. “This isn’t the first time it has been brought up.”
He added: “I’m not so sure we wouldn’t give it to a team, but they have not yet at this point in the history of the school. But I would never say never.”
The long time that has passed since the 1997 championship added another complication, Masterson said. He was not clear of the exact rule regarding induction, but did say that the eligibility lasts for a limited time past graduation.
“That time line has significantly passed. They are way past that,” he said of the 1997 champions.
Bass said he gets it.
“I understand where the committee is coming from,” he said. “This would have been an unprecedented move.
“Personally, I’m disappointed because I was excited to see a lot of the guys.”
Instead, he’ll see just Garry when the team is honored Friday.
“We’re all big boys and won’t have any problem moving on,” Bass said.