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NWAC inducts Chemeketa team into Hall of Fame

A picture of Center James Van Ness in the February 18, 1983 edition of The Courier. Photo by Saul Rodriguez

Chemeketa’s legendary 1982-83 men’s basketball team will be inducted into the Northwest Athletic Conference’s Hall of Fame on June 1.

This recognition comes more than 30 years after the team made their Cinderella story run to win the Region 18 tournament, which was a first for a men’s basketball team from Oregon according to an article in the March 11, 1983 edition of the Courier 4 (now the Chemeketa Courier).

Current Chemeketa men’s basketball Head Coach David Abderhalden, who was involved in the submission process for the team’s hall of fame induction, said that the historical significance of the team was a major factor.

“It’s not the first time we’ve been asked ‘why that team?’”, he said. “But really that’s kind of a group that got this whole run started for men’s basketball. This was a group who really had the first big championship run.”

The 1982-83 season was the high point of the then men’s head basketball coach Rick Adelman’s tenure at Chemeketa. After that season Adelman was hired as an assistant coach for the Portland Trail Blazers and went on to become a successful head coach in the NBA.

Even before the season began, Adelman seemed to have an idea of just how special this team could be. In a preview of the upcoming basketball season from the November 19, 1982 edition of the Courier 4, Adelman said that the group of players comprising that year’s team were “the most talented group we’ve ever had.”

Led by players such as center James Van Ness, forward John Immel, and freshman Mike Stipe, this team was big in both talent and size Van Ness is listed as being 6-foot-10. This potent combination is what helped Chemeketa overcome regional powerhouses such as the College of Southern Idaho and Lane Community College on their way to winning the Region 18 tournament and qualifying for the National Junior College tournament for the first time in Chemeketa’s history.

More than 30 years later, the team’s legacy still inspires Chemeketa’s coaches and athletes.

“That was a pretty special run that they put on at that point to qualify,” Abderhalden said. “…It’s been kind of cool because we have been able to connect with a good share of [the players]. And to reconnect with them that way and to get them to remember their time here, you start to get stories from them of what happened when they were here…hopefully this will rekindle some of that, that we haven’t had. And that’s a positive that comes out of this whole thing I think, from my perspective.”