Archive for Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Chinstraps and mouthpieces: Another glance at signs

March 30, 2005

A better story was hiding in last week's column.

As reported, I was driving March 20 through Holton. It was a return trip to Tonganoxie from my hometown in north central Kansas.

In the column, I wrote about driving along Kansas Highway 16, still in a stupor after Kansas' opening-round loss in the NCAA Tournament.

While in Holton, I suddenly looked up and saw a street sign that said "Wisconsin." A few blocks later I saw Illinois, Vermont and Indiana. Illinois and Vermont, like Wisconsin, still were playing in the NCAA Tournament, while Indiana was in the NIT.

I thought the street signs were some hint at who would be advancing in the tournament, but that turned out to be a fluke. Only Illinois still is alive. The Fighting Illini will be in the Final Four on Saturday against Louisville in St. Louis.

Last week, David Powls, publisher of the Holton Recorder newspaper, gave me a call.

Seeing Holton in my column's headline caught Powls' eye. But he thought the story would be going in a completely different direction.

Now it is.

Holton was home to Frances Pomeroy. After finishing high school at HHS in 1928, Pomeroy attended Kansas University where she met and eventually married James Naismith Jr. -- son of Dr. James Naismith, KU's first basketball coach and the inventor of the game.

During World War II, the younger Naismith was serving his country in Europe.

Back home, Naismith's wife and children lived two separate times during the war at Pomeroy's parents' home.

The house was located at 318 Wisconsin.

When I started paying attention to street signs while I traveled through Holton, the first sign I saw was "Wisconsin."

I looked to my right when I zeroed in on that sign. If I would have looked down the road about a block, I would have seen where the younger Naismith's family lived during the war.

According to Powls, who recently researched the Naismith connection for a story in his newspaper, Frances Pomeroy always had a special place in her heart for shorter basketball players.

Ian Naismith, son of James Naismith Jr. and Pomeroy, told Powls that he and his father established the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award in 1969, a year after she died.

The national award goes to a men's and women's basketball player who excels both athletically and academically. The players also must be 5-foot-8 or shorter for the women and 6-0 or shorter for the men.

This year's women's recipient was Mississippi State senior guard Tan White. She led the nation in scoring and helped the Bulldogs to a 17-12 record. She also was listed at 5-7, making her eligible for the national award.

The men's winner hasn't been selected yet for this season. Last year, St. Joseph's standout Jameer Nelson won the award.

Naismith Awards, for the first time at the high school level, will be given to a senior boy and girl at Lawrence and Holton high schools this spring. The award is being made possible through "Partnership in Sportsmanship." In Holton, the award is being sponsored jointly by the Naismith Family Foundation, a local bank and Holton High School.

How interesting that the inventor of basketball and a national basketball award can trace a branch of the family tree to Holton.

Next time I'm passing through a town and think I've found an omen, I'd better stop.

An even better sign could be just down the road.

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