BOYS NOTEBOOK Holien finds hoops are serious in Alaska
By Pat Ruff
Jim Holien has a brand new life, complete with some of the most scenic views in the world.
One thing that hasn't changed for the former Lanesboro basketball coach, is that he remains a coach. Only now it is in the Alaskan native village of Hydaburg, located on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska. The town's population is made up almost entirely of Haida Indians. He is their head boys basketball coach.
Holien accepted a one-year leave from Lanesboro following last school year, with an eye toward an Alaskan experience.
"I always wanted to (go to Alaska) and I figured I better do it while I have the chance," he said. "I e-mailed every school district in Alaska looking for openings. I got my offers from remote schools, and took a job in Hydaburg."
Holien made a quick discovery upon settling in the town. Hydaburg, like all of Alaska, is crazy for basketball.
"(Alaska) is the biggest basketball crazy place I know," he said. "Everyone in Alaska loves basketball. Hydaburg happens be known as a basketball town and has quite a tradition."
Holien has helped nicely maintain that tradition, as his team is sailing along with a 9-2 record and a No. 3 ranking in the Alaska 2A poll.
While the Alaskans are crazy about their basketball, their basketball is also a tad on the crazy side. At least according to Holien.
"It is a very aggressive and rough style of basketball," said Holien, who has not yet made a decision about whether he will return to Alaska next school year. "The referees let much more go up here. I was shocked my first couple of games and still haven't adjusted totally to it."
Holien has also needed to adapt to the extensive travel that goes with Alaskan high school basketball. Gone are the days like he had at Lanesboro, where the team would drive an hour to a destination, play the game, and come on home. In Alaska, with towns so distanced from each other, when a team goes away to play a game, it really goes away. Holien said the basketball trips last up to 12 days, and are most often done either by ferry or plane.
"We'll ferry 20 hours to one town, then fly to the next," he said. "We'll ferry to Juneau, fly to Ketchikan, then ferry home again. It's fun to see different towns and villages. (But) it's hard to spend 11 nights sleeping on the floor of classrooms and gyms. It's…; interesting."
LINBO FILLS IT UP: Once a scorer, always a scorer.
It doesn't matter that Adam Linbo turned himself into one of the strongest and best running backs in southeast Minnesota. The Byron senior never lost his shooting touch.
"Adam has always been a shooter," said his father, Byron coach Kerry Linbo. "He's been in the gym since he was 3 or 4 years old. He always loved to shoot and score. When he was in elementary school, when we'd take him to little league basketball stuff, he was always a good long-range shooter."
That has gone unchanged. Adam leads Byron, one of the more formidable teams in the area at 15-4 overall, with a 15 points per game average. A whole bunch of those have come from beyond the arc. He's made 49 three-pointers, and is shooting a sizzling 46 percent from there. Adam has been even better from three-point distance than from closer in, having connected on 41 percent of his two-pointers.
Kerry has been a bit hesitant to have his son be the team's leading scorer, wanting not to portray him as getting special offensive concessions. But the coach hasn't been able to get around the fact that Adam has a wonderful ability to shoot the basketball.
"I always worried about that as a coach," Kerry said. "But all the way from fourth grade on he's has a scorer's role. So just because I am the coach now doesn't mean his role should change. I expect him to shoot the ball."
SOPHOMORE SPARK: Ben Sullivan provided Rochester Mayo just what it needed Tuesday in his second varsity game.
Sullivan, a 6-1 sophomore guard, came off the bench to score 17 points in a 53-42 win over Winona. Spartans coach Mark Kieffer had been searching for a third scorer to go with guard Sam Bachman and forward Tim Porterfield. In Sullivan, he might have found it.
"He helped us a lot," Kieffer said of Sullivan, who hit three three-pointers. "He has good court sense and he hit some threes for us. I am hoping that this is a sign of things to come."
Sullivan could turn into a starter as soon as Tuesday, when Mayo plays its next game.