Gold Medal legends

Posted: Saturday, March 08, 2008

A ssisting teammates on the court is common practice in basketball, but some people associated with the Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Tournament continue helping even after their basketball careers are long over.

So it is for those honored in the Gold Medal Hall of Fame. Most of them can still be found close to the court and the community from which they perfected their craft.

The Gold Medal Hall of Fame started in 1961 as Herb Didrickson, Duane Vincent, Gilbert Booth, Herman Ludwigson, John Mills, Moses Johnson and Robert "Jeff" David composed the inaugural class.

Since that first class, the Hall of Fame has grown to 98 players, coaches, broadcasters and volunteers.

Most of them can still be found close to the court and the community from which they perfected their craft.

Sportsmanship, community service and athletic ability are all a part of getting into the Hall of Fame. The honor of being inducted into the hall has not changed over the years, nor have the standards.

"It's not that we change the criteria," said state Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, and a 1993 Hall of Fame inductee. "We change the people who meet the mold of the Gold Medal Hall of Fame.

Inductees are often taken aback by the honor.

"It was quite a wonderful surprise, a very high honor, and a very humbling feeling to represent a community as an outstanding player of sportsmanship," said Hoonah's Dennis Gray, a 1992 inductee.

For Sid Edenshaw, a 2002 Hall of Fame member from Hydaburg, being inducted means to stand with the great Southeast Alaska players of the past.

"To stand amongst the older Hall of Fame players like Albert Kookesh, Dennis Gray, Dewey Skan, to me it is a true honor," Edenshaw said.

Fellow 2002 inductee, Jerry Scudero of Ketchikan, echoed those sentiments.

"To be in that same class of players and in a fraternity with all the greats from around the state or from Southeast Alaska is a real neat deal," Scudero said. "Once you are there, you know who the people are and when you meet them you have a tendency to really acknowledge each other."

For Dennis Gray, being inducted into the Gold Medal Hall of Fame in 1992 meant standing with the players he admired as a youth.

"I got to play in Gold Medal for the first time at the age of 17. Since then there were so many players from over the years that I admired a lot," Gray said. "Players like Paul Johnson, Jeff David, and Harry Johansen from Ketchikan - guys that I admired for years from listening to the games on the radio."

For Hall of Fame members, service to the game and their communities doesn't stop at the final whistle.

A prospective Hall of Fame member must continue to be involved with the tourney after the person's playing days over.

In his playing days, Kookesh helped lead his teams to nine championships. He also was an All Tournament selection and a former

Most Valuable Player, and he won a Sportsmanship Award.

Since then, Kookesh helped raise money for Angoon team members who needed help paying the Gold Medal entry fees and for those who may not be able to afford a whole week in Juneau. He also recently purchased warm-ups and uniforms for Angoon's Mighty B Bracket team.

"It is always a source of pride that our community teams look good," Kookesh said. "Many Hall of Fame members fund their community's team with their own money bringing players up Juneau, housing and feeding them."

More then once over the years, Edenshaw guaranteed the Gold Medal financial well-being of his team from Hydaburg.

"Sometimes things happen and people just cannot afford to go to Gold Medal, so I would just make it happen so they could go," Edenshaw said. "It can really add up - a week of hotels and food and transportation. But it's all right. It's for Gold Medal."

Sid Edenshaw's personal philosophy is all about winning basketball championships and believes that personal accolades follow close behind.

Edenshaw, 42, helped lead the Hydaburg Haida to multiple Gold Medal titles and was recently named Player of the Decade of the Prince Rupert All Native Tournament in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.

"Edenshaw was and is still one of the top players in Gold Medal," Sen. Kookesh said. "He is a gentleman on the basketball court and people respect that about him."

Scudero serves his basketball community in a similar way, even though he said he hasn't been involved in Gold Medal for six years.

"I still play here (in Ketchikan) on the number one team in the B bracket, the Silver Streaks," he said, "but these days, I spend a lot of time coaching."

Scudero serves as an assistant coach with the Ketchikan High School boys basketball team.

"It's sort of a big deal to be able to pass some of what you've learned over the years on to some of the kids." Scudero said. "And then to actually watch the kids put some of your knowledge to use on the court, it's a pretty neat deal."

Gray's resume may be the perfect example of what a Gold Medal Hall of Fame member encompasses.

Gray has been involved with Gold Medal for 50 years - 34 as a player in a variety of brackets and the rest as a coach or manager.

"I have always been involved with Gold Medal and look forward to it every year," Gray said. "The very many friends that I have developed are because of Gold Medal. We still get together and rehash the good old days and cheer on our hometown teams. Gold Medal is a very big part of our life and a part of all the villages of Southeast Alaska."

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