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HISTORY OF ST. JOHN'S BASKETBALL

HISTORY OF ST. JOHN'S BASKETBALL History of St. John’s Basketball

This article was first printed in the 1976 newspaper commemorating the centennial of St. John's Parish. It is based on interviews with several people associated with St. John's Basketball.

"To discuss the history of St John’s basketball at Seymour, requires a recollection over many years of devoted attention by numerous people. It began in the late 1940s under the organization of Tony Lubinski. Tony acted as athletic director and coach at St. John’s School for several years, teaching the students basketball, coaching the teams in games and tournaments, and otherwise creating a general interest in the St. John’s students in athletic competition. Tony spent a great deal of his own time and money in the promotion of athletics at St. John’s and in transporting teams, including travel expenses, to the various tournaments and games they played in northeastern Wisconsin.

In the early 1950’s Vernon Lubinski assisted Tony in the program. Marvin Biese took over the coaching of the St. John’s team for a short time in the middle 1950’s. After his tenure, Vernon Lubinski again took over. Vernon was assisted over the years by David Hallada, Robert Ciesielcyk, Dr. George Cisler and Joe Treml. Between them, they had developed a program of basketball starting with the 5th grade thru the 8th grade. They also developed an intramural program in addition to outside competition.

Until 1968, the school participated in two separate leagues and played teams from all over the area including Wrightstown, Immaculate Conception, Darboy Angels, Hollandtown Raiders, Freedom Grade School and Assumption of Pulaski. As part of the basketball program, there was the cheerleading team. Primarily under the direction and help of Mrs. Wayne Jensen, the cheerleading program developed and was an important part of the athletic program. For many years St. John’s had the most extensive and best grade school cheerleading team in the area.

We are sure many people remember the practices in the St. John’s gymnasium. For many years, it was necessary to remove the tables and chairs from the gymnasium prior to practice and replace them after practice so they would be available for the hot lunch program the following day.

The program originally started with one basketball and a tire pump and no locker room space, but merely a little storage space behind the school stage. We are sure you can recall the popcorn which was made by parents and sold to raise funds for facilities and for the equipment that was needed. St. John’s teams wore black and white and gold and were known as the Jets for a number of years. Then the name was changed to the Hawks. Subsequently, a beautiful black, gray and gold uniform was purchased from funds provided by admissions at the games and the sale of popcorn. The St. John’s team was certainly one of the best equipped and dressed in the area.

Many parents supported the program during the course of the years in providing transportation to out of town games. They also provided moral support for the boys and girls who participated in the program. For many years a horn and the small stopwatch was used until eventually a scoreboard was erected. With the acquisition of the scoreboard, the facilities for the St. John’s basketball program were complete.

The games drew great support and the St. John’s gymnasium was overcrowded on many occasions on a Sunday afternoon or evening. People would be standing in the halls and trying to get into the building. Excitement would run extremely high at these games. The program concluded in 1968 with the termination of 7th and 8th grades at St. John’s."

Comments about St. John's Basketball

Travis Lubinski - Travis is the son of Tony Lubinski who started the program in the late 1940s.

"I remember dribbling through folding chairs about eight feet apart as fast as we could. The scoreboard was on the stage. It had big dials to show the score. The loud air horn sounded at the end of the quarters. We wore flashy satin gold and blue uniforms with a belt. If anyone has one I'd like to buy it. The chairs for spectators were along the sidelines right up to the out of bounds line. Who can forget that lockerroom downstairs and the shower. How about that Seymour pop machine for only a nickel. You had to slide your bottle down to the end to get it out! We shot free throws under hand, raised our hand if we committed a foul and the coaches had to explain the new three second rule for the paint inside the free throw lane.
It seemed Pulaski Public Grade School and Gillett always had tall centers. The referee was Mr. Wassenberg who ran a bakery in town. We moved to Shawano in 1962 when I was in the seventh grade and Pulaski had a two weekend tournament. I played for St. Johns the first weekend and Pulaski Sacred Heart the second weekend of that tourney. We had a number of old basketballs and I remember the blue cloth draw string bag we had to carry them. We wore black high top basketball shoes. There were no summer basketball camps. We played baseball in the summer, football in the fall and basketball in the winter...and marbles in between. I'm glad the gym is still in use. I still get a special feeling going into that gym today."

Jeff Reed - "The seventh and eighth grade was the varsity or "A" team and the 5th and 6th grade was the "B" team. Steve Spaude was our top scorer. He also led the team in high school and was one of the leading scorers in the conference. I believe Smiley Nicodem often was the referee. We had a lot of fun. The gym was usually packed for the games with standing room only. Of course there was only one or two rows of chairs. Our team competed in the Tri-County conference. Pulaski had two teams, one public and one private, Oconto Falls had two teams and Gillette also had a team. We traveled to away games with parents or the coaches."

Dick Lubinski - "My dad, Vernon, took over the team after Tony Lubinski moved to Shawano. He continued coaching until St. John's discontinued 7th and 8th grade education in 1968. He was assisted by Dave Hallada, Bob Ciesielczyk, and for a few years George Cisler. We usually won more games than we lost. We had a number of set plays and would even change defenses. If we missed a shot we would drop back in a zone. When we made the shot we played man to man. At the end of the season the team was recognized at a breakfast sponsored by the Holy Name organization. After my eighth grade year Bart Starr was the keynote speaker. Another year we had Torchy Clark the legendary coach at Xavier. I think that is when our name was changed from the Jets to the Hawks. It kept us busy and out of trouble.. Many of the players also played in high school."

Kathy Cumicek Smits - "Those were fun times. The cheerleaders also traveled to the away games. Our coach was Mrs. Wayne Jensen, who I believe was a Latin teacher at the high school. We had a number of cheers, but all I remember are some of the basic ones like, 'Stand up, Sit down, Fight team Fight.' I remember the Holy Name father-daughter breakfast at the end of the year when Bart Starr was the guest speaker. The basketball team was recognized along with the cheerleaders."

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