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Blank wall raises questions

Steve Yingling
Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily Tribune South Tahoe High basketball player Jeff Cabristante hangs out below the blank Wall of Fame on Thursday in the blue gym at South Tahoe High School.
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The conspicuously missing Wall of Fame in South Tahoe High’s blue gym is causing some grumbling around town.

But STHS Athletic Director Don Borges says there is no reason for concern about the missing boys’ basketball memorabilia. The wall adjacent to the gym entrance was formerly covered with the school’s illustrious basketball history, including pictures of every Vikings’ player to win the Northern Nevada League Player of the Year honors.

“We are gonna renovate,” said Borges, who has stashed the pictures in his office. “As soon as renovation of the gym happens, it’s gonna be cleaned up.”

That renovation should occur next summer when school isn’t in session.

Why then was all of the memorabilia pulled well before the project was scheduled to begin?

Borges said he was directed by STHS Principal Marcia Kaster to clean up the Wall of Fame last school year with the idea that the blue gym renovation project would be completed last fall. But replacement of the South Tahoe Middle School Multi Purpose Room gym floor took priority and the STHS gym project was delayed. The new STMS floor wasn’t installed until Christmas break and will be used during the Optimist Winter Class this weekend.

“Everything is in my office and ready to go,” Borges said. “I’ve had some conversations with alumni and they are very understanding of what we’re going to do. Some of them want to see their names and pictures back up now, but we’re not going to put them back up, take them down and put them back up again. Once the wall is ready I could do it together in week or two.”

Community members are proud of what Viking basketball accomplished in the 1980s and 1990s. The school won two state championships and dominated Northern Nevada League basketball like no other team in league history, winning nine regional championships and 521 games under former coach Tom Orlich. They want to see that rich basketball history preserved.

“I’d like to see that history honored someplace because it was so great,” said Ross Groelz, who took many of the 3-by-4 foot photos of STHS’s league MVPs, including his son Ryan, that formerly adorned the wall.

“Those boys worked very hard to become that good,” he said. “I was amazed how hard they worked to become part of that era. I worked very hard to take those pictures, so they would have a good picture up on the wall.”

The new Wall of Fame, however, will have a more equitable look.

Borges said the school doesn’t want to restrict the presentation of athletes to basketball stars. He noted the school had three league most valuable players of the year in boys soccer last fall and he wants other sports such as the two-time defending state champion girls’ cross country team to be represented. The plan is to consume the wall with a list of league MVPs under each sport’s heading.

The basketball pictures, however, won’t be tossed. Borges said the school is planning to showcase them in a trophy case in the entryway to the gym.

Two-time league MVP Jerod Haase was upset after attending a game last month and seeing nothing but a blank wall under the “Conference Players of the Year” heading.

“I hope it is not permanent. I hope it was not a personal vendetta. I hope it was a mistake or an accident,” Haase said in a letter to the newspaper.

Haase, a North Carolina assistant coach, wasn’t miffed about his missing pictures but the one removed of his older brother, Steven.

“Steven was a great student, a great athlete, an Air Force Academy graduate, F-16 pilot and a defender of our country,” Haase’s letter read. “He is a role model for South Tahoe’s youth.

“I learned from coach Orlich and coach (Roy) Williams that nothing is more important than the welfare of the student athlete and the young people that aspire to fill their shoes in the future.”

In addition to painting the gym walls, the gym renovation project will include a refurbishing of the locker rooms.


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