Enterprise Stories-Why All the Hoopla Over Basketball?
With the Blue & Gold Basketball tournament scheduled for this week on the 29th and 30th, we take a look back at the Enterprise High School boys’ basketball team of 1988-89, dubbed the “Town’s Shooting Stars,” in this Salt Lake Tribune article.
Why All the Hoopla Over Prep Basketball? Because Players Are Town’s Shooting Stars
By Cathy Free
Tribune Staff Writer
ENTERPRISE. Washington County — Every Friday night during basketball season, dozens of blue and gold, hand-painted signs are posted for 30 miles along Highway 18, leading into the small town of Enterprise “Go. Wolves. Go.’ Show ’em How to Slam-Dunk!” “E.H.S. Wolves Are Leaders of the Pack”‘ “Nobody in the State Can Howl Like Our Wolves!”
Each time the signs are put up, state road authorities call the secretary at Enterprise High School to tell her that the signs are a distraction, that they must come down. But as soon as somebody takes them down, somebody else drives up the highway in a pickup truck loaded with bigger and brighter signs to take their place.
In Enterprise, you see, nothing, not even the county fair or the town’s Fourth of July celebration is more important than the high school basketball team.
For three years in a row the Wolves have won the state 1-A basketball championship, which in Enterprise, is akin to winning the Publisher’s sweepstakes. Whether games are played 3 1/2 hours away in Richfield, two hours away in Parowan or two minutes away inside the school gym, the entire town, all 1,000 or so residents, usually shows up to cheer the Wolves on to victory.
Next weekend, when the team attempts to win their fourth straight state title in Provo, the story will be much the same. “Most people here plan their family vacation around the 1-A tournament,” says longtime resident Teddi Jones, “so you can bet our town will be empty. Whether the team wins or loses, we’ll be behind them, but if they win, well, you’ll never see such commotion. It’s tradition to have the town fire truck meet the boys at the beginning of town to give them a ride down Main Street with a police escort. All the parents will ride behind in a caravan, honking their horns, and everybody else will jump up and down on their lawns, applauding and shouting. It’s really a big deal to all of us, because when the Wolves win, so does the whole town.”
Until four years ago, the Wolves had only gone to the state championship five times in 64 years, and often ended their season with more losses than wins. Then, in 1983, the school hired a new coach with new ideas, and things gradually started turning around.
Larry Shurtliff, a real estate agent and father of 12, who had coached basketball in Spanish Fork and Lehi, had the same attitude as Gene Hackman in “Hoosiers,” a popular movie about a winning, small-town basketball team. There would be no stars on his team; no particular player would be singled out to make all the points and receive all the glory. The Wolves would have to learn teamwork. They would all be treated the same.
“During that first year,” says Larry, “we were absolutely horrible — we lost everybody we played. But by the next season, we were winning, and not just schools in 1-A. I’d talked the school district into letting us play some 2-A and 3-A teams each year — teams like Dixie, Cedar City and Richfield, schools 10 times bigger than Enterprise. And when we won, it did remarkable things for everybody’s confidence. It seemed that every boy in school wanted to try out for the team.”
Enterprise High has 180 students from grades seven to 12, but only 86 of these are high school aged. The school doesn’t have a football team because of a limited budget and limited players, and track meets have to be held in the fall so there will be enough students to play baseball in the spring.
“Everybody plays everything,’ says basketball captain, Cam Robinson. “In a town of this size, you sort of have to.” When Cam isn’t busy sailing basketballs through the hoops in the school gym with his teammates, he works for a local hay cuber, operating farm machinery or pitching hay.
“Nearly all of these boys have chores to do when they get home from practice,” says Larry Shurtliff. “Many of them were raised on potato or alfalfa farms and know what it feels like to feed 50 cows or go out to irrigate in the morning. They know how to work- they’re good, basic country kids. And together, they make one heck of a team.”
Cam Robinson, Kevin Holt, Wade Huntsman, Kayle Chambers, Jared DeHart, Clayton Holt, Gayland Jones, Cody Staheli, Corey Barlow, Terry Banks and Todd Hunt know that they will probably never get much recognition for their talents outside their hometown. They know that the chances for basketball scholarships are slim, and that their dreams of playing pro ball may never be realized.
“The main thing,” says Wade Huntsman, “is that we love the game and the whole town is behind us. I don’t know what any of us will do when we graduate, but for now, we play basketball. I’ve always thought somebody should put up a new sign on Friday nights, on the outskirts of town, “Will the last one to leave Enterprise please turn out the lights?”