Twenty years ago, nobody associated with the Monticello boys basketball team could have envisioned what took place Friday night. The 1994-95 Magic was a special group that went to the state tournament for the first time in school history and began a five-year run of consecutive trips to state.
Most of the players and coaches from that team were reunited Friday at Monticello High School. The teenagers from the mid-1990s are now thirty-somethings who were honored before the current Magic boys basketball team met Buffalo in a Mississippi 8 Conference game in the splendid Monticello gym.
The star of the evening was Nate Holmstadt. His number 54 jersey was retired, with a framed jersey being presented to Nate and a twin tribute to his career unveiled on the gym wall.
At 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, Holmstadt averaged 25 points, 15 rebounds and 7.5 blocked shots per game as a senior in 1994-95. He was named the player of the year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and shared Associated Press player of the year honors with Robert Mestas of Minneapolis Roosevelt.
Nate went on to play basketball at Montana State and now works for the California Highway Patrol.
“It’s really surreal,” Nate said after the pregame ceremony. “I haven’t seen a lot of these guys in a long time. I haven’t been back in a while, and a lot of the people in the stands, I haven’t seen them for a long time, either. It’s an unbelievable moment for me.”
The ceremony and that evening’s game was a celebration of everything that’s good about high school sports. We cheer for today’s teams and athletes, we remember those who came before and we revel in the atmosphere and the togetherness.
The entire 1994-95 team was honored, with all but four of the 15 players present. Each was introduced to the crowd by athletic director Gary Revenig, who talked about what each of them are doing now. One of the absent players was Brad Ibs, who is doing missionary work in Kenya. Another was Joel Przybilla, who was a freshman in 1994-95 and recently retired from basketball after 13 seasons in the NBA.
The other players are involved in careers ranging from sales to insurance to construction to architecture to health care to coaching. The coaching connection is Jason Schmidt, a senior in 1994-95 who now is the Magic head coach. Jason kicked off the plans to honor his old teammates, including their coach, Max LaVelle.
Retired and still living in Monticello, LaVelle talked about the team and thanked all involved in making high school activities happen.
“I’d like to thank, on behalf of these guys, their families,” the coach said. “They sacrificed a lot, with the time put in, transportation, money, meals, everything. I’d like to thank the managers, the cheerleaders, the coaches, the Monticello Times for the great coverage in the past and the present. And our fans. This is unbelievable, to have the support tonight. We really appreciate that.
“The pep band, the administration, the community, the staff, the youth coaches who worked with these guys as they were beginning to become basketball players.”
That’s a heck of a summary of what goes into these endeavors. In a lot of sports, athletes can play on offseason teams, travel the nation to tournaments and hope to catch the eye of college coaches. But how often do those teams gather again 20 years later to celebrate with their community?
The teams, the families, the cheerleaders, the band. The Magic and the magic.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 292
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2014-15: 6,447