The last time I posted about St. Cloud State University, the subject was that institution's cancellation of Homecoming. The time before that, it was about their consideration of axing the football program.
There is a much brighter reason to give SCSU attention now. Morris native Taylor Witt is concluding a stellar college basketball career there. He follows in the footsteps of his brother Forrest as a Husky. Forrest now coaches the Alexandria Cardinals.
Taylor Witt is in the spotlight now for having been chosen for the Reese's Division II College All-Star Game in Springfield, Massachusetts. He's the senior captain of the Huskies.
Taylor is on the West team which will vie with the East at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, March 25). The venue is the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.
The honor is bestowed by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). Taylor is the second Husky to play in this showcase, having been preceded by David Dreas in 2008. The all-star game is sandwiched in between the NCAA "Elite Eight" semis, set for tonight (Thursday) and the title game on Saturday.
SCSU athletics reports "this will be Witt's final collegiate contest after turning out one of the finest careers in the SCSU men's basketball program's history."
Here in Taylor's hometown of Morris we all held our breath when he had a serious football injury once. Taylor and his mates were playing at the old Coombe Field. The Tigers tried a gimmick play when Taylor got hurt.
There was concern there could be long-term effects. But Taylor's stellar play has erased that. Tiger and Husky fans were blessed seeing his athletic gifts.
Taylor played quarterback on the gridiron for his father Jerry, the long-time coach here. Jerry had the task of helping coach the basketball Tigers when they hosted the Forrest Witt-coached Cardinals of Alexandria recently. Forrest won that rivalry.
Did Jerry lose any sleep over that? I would guess not, but it's in his genes to win - a trait obviously passed down to his sons.
We mustn't be negligent and omit mention of the eldest Witt son, Zachary. Zach was a state university athlete but it was at Mankato State University, home of the Mavericks, and his collegiate sport of choice was football. I remember Mankato State being in some very high-scoring football games but unfortunately losing too many of them. You couldn't blame the offense.
Forrest was a prolific basketball scorer for the SCSU Huskies.
Don Meredith of the iconic "Monday Night Football" broadcast team once said "you're always supposed to compliment your youngest brother as being best in the family."
Taylor did all he could to win those kind of kudos. He was named to the NABC All-Central District First Team for the second straight season. He's a three-time All-NSIC First Team player and three-time NSIC/Sanford Health All-Tournament Team member (including tournament MVP in 2009).
Taylor led the Huskies in scoring this past season, averaging 20.1 points per game. He poured in 39 points in the Huskies' NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament quarter-final game at Augustana.
SCSU athletics, where Anne Abicht runs the PR show most capably, reports that Taylor "played in more games than any player in school history, a total of 123, and made 95 straight starts."
Continuing: "He leaves the Huskies ranked fourth on the all-time scoring chart with 1,770 points, and fourth on the all-time assist chart with 484. He set the school record for freethrows in a career with 465. He was also named to the Daktronics Men's Basketball All-Region Second Team.
"Witt was a member of a senior class that played in three NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament Championship games, winning two straight in 2009 and 2010. The Huskies played in back-to-back NCAA Division II Central Region tournaments, winning the 2010 title and advancing to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
"In the Elite Eight game, Witt lit up the court with a 43-point performance that included a school and tournament record 22 made free throws."
(I also remember reading that Forrest sought to distract the foe by doing pushups after getting fouled - a Chad Ocho Cinco type of stunt!)
An alum before long. . .
Taylor will leave SCSU with rich memories of Halenbeck Hall and the campus, but he won't be able to return for Homecoming. Homecoming is RIP in Husky country.
People who are close to that place have a strong theory on how that decision was based. There was too much rambunctious behavior by the mostly young celebrants. There was too much unflattering news coverage as a result.
The situation festered for years and now finally it's resolved, having been wiped off the calendar. No more burning dumpsters.
SCSU is hardly the only place where Homecoming could be troublesome. It will be interesting to see if SCSU's decision becomes precedent.
Yours truly graduated from SCSU in 1978. It's possible I joined the Homecoming reverie to an extent that might not be considered exemplary. I know because someone took a photo of me and showed it to me later. (I confess that's a joke, stolen off a comment board).
Taylor Witt had the distinction of playing prep varsity football at both Coombe Field and the new Big Cat Field in Morris. He quarterbacked some high-scoring games at Big Cat, so much so that long-time fan Donnie Eich described it as "sandlot football."
Certainly the defense wasn't executed in textbook fashion, but it could be fun to watch.
One can only speculate how Taylor (or Forrest too) would have done had they took their quarterbacking to college. But hoops emerged as their specialty, which certainly no one regrets now. These were "go-to" athletes.
Parents Jerry and Holly might have a little more R&R now, richly deserved.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - email@example.com