Playing on an alumni team against the George Fox University varsity team was an eye-opening experience

Call this obvious if you want, but college basketball is a young man’s game.

Consequently, imagine my surprise, when several weeks ago I received an e-mail inviting me to play in a game against the George Fox University men’s basketball team.

Granted, it was only a preseason game, and won’t count on the Bruins' official schedule. Still, it was the opportunity to lace up the sneakers one more time and show the young kids a thing or too.

In hindsight, that might not have been such a great idea. The e-mail actually had three options: Play in the alumni versus varsity game, attend a breakfast with the team the next day, or play the game and attend the breakfast.

Of course, never one to pass up the opportunity to play a game, I received permission to miss the Crook County homecoming festivities and football game, while I traveled to Newberg to play basketball.

I know what some of you are thinking — ‘Are you totally crazy?’ Well, apparently the answer is yes. Nonetheless, despite the warnings and advice such as make sure you have knee and ankle braces, or fake a hamstring injury in warmups and just sit on the bench during the game, I chose to play.

The final friendly advice I heard on my way out of work Friday morning was ‘I have a walker you can use.’

That evening, my wife and I walked into the gym at George Fox, and I went to show her the old photo of our team. Of course it was no longer there.

Time for our shoot-around came and there were three of us on the floor, but the athletic director, an old friend, assured us that we would have plenty of players for our game.

By game time we had 12 players, I was already worn out from all the warmups.

As we prepared for the game, our team made the unusual decision to start our five oldest players. Since I had at least 10 years on everyone else, that meant that I was not only a starter, I was one of the team captains.

When we met the officials before the game, we were sternly reminded that there would be no handchecking, and no leaning on other players in the low post (both have been banned by new NCAA rules). So much for utilizing my increased mass to any kind of advantage.

The game started, and quickly became a blur. Under first-year head coach Maco Hamilton, the Bruins full-court pressed us the entire contest. The pace was much faster than I had anticipated as the varsity team attempted to get a shot up within five to 10 seconds from when they got the ball. I soon found myself dripping in sweat sitting on the end of the bench.

When the smoke finally cleared, our alumni team had managed to score 83 points. Not bad for a bunch of “old guys.” Only problem is, with our lightning speed and tremendous quickness, we gave up 136 points.

We were led by youngster, Mike Taylor, a recent George Fox graduate, who spent several months touring with the Harlem Globetrotters as a member of the Washington Senators. He scored 20 points.

Meanwhile my stat line was not so good — 12 minutes, one foul, one turnover, no rebounds, and 1 for 4 from the floor courtesy of a sweeping hook shot. It's a shot so uncommon today that my defender remarked, “I’ve seen that shot on old video, but never in person. I thought everyone that shot that was dead.”

Not a great ending to my first varsity college game in 38 years. Now I’m thinking about trying to make another comeback next year.

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