Pawhuska paid tribute again Friday evening to one of the enduring legacies of its high school sports programs — the excellence on the hardwood that made the name Pawhuska special among lovers of Oklahoma basketball in the 1960s and 1970s. The community has a Basketball Hall of Fame that annually recognizes more of the stars of winters gone by.
The aging stars and their fans are reunited, the stories and laughter and sometimes tears flow. Current Pawhuska players are brought into contact with the fact that they live in a small town with the heart to hope for big things. After the banquet, they take the court to show the oldtimers that they’ve got game.
The honorees Friday were Lynn Star McGuire Holloway, James Miles and Rodney “Steve” Burris.
Burris, who played for PHS state championship teams in 1971 and 1973 under Coach Max Shuck, recalls that Pawhuska basketball had a following — both in town and across the state.
“We played Pawhuska Ball, and that meant we went up and down the court faster than they could,” Burris said. He recalled that there was pressure to perform. “It was a tradition. You had to live up to that tradition and add something to it.”
Burris explained that PHS players loved to press on defense, played with a sharp eye for technique and had a keen sense of themselves as representatives of their community.
“It’s time to start those traditions again,” Burris said, voicing a desire to inspire younger basketball players. His son, Stephan, who introduced him, commented that he learned basketball technique by listening to his dad’s stories about playing at Pawhuska. He also learned that his dad knew the full names and the accomplishments of the players from other teams whom he guarded — a detailed knowledge of one’s opponent.
James Miles, who was a starter on the 1973 state championship team and made the All-Tournament Team for the Oklahoma State Tournament, also addressed the issue of respect for tradition.
“To you gentlemen, work hard,” Miles said to the current Pawhuska Huskies basketball players listening to him. “That’s what we did. Teams in our class didn’t want to play us. I’m here to tell you guys you have a tradition to uphold and it’s all going to be due to hard work.”
Miles hammered at that admonition to work.
“No matter what I did, I worked hard,” he said. “I hear y’all are kind of good. So, show me. Hard work - that’s all I know.”
Miles’ emotions were evident as he exhorted the younger generation. So much so that Steve Holcombe, the master of ceremonies for the evening, was touched by it.
“I didn’t know that James could tear up,” Holcombe said. “He was the fiercest of competitors.”
Holloway, a 1981 PHS grad who averaged 23 points a game for the Lady Huskies from the post, recalled that her basketball career began at Indian Camp.
“When I went to Indian Camp, I had never picked up a basketball,” she said. A few years later, after Coach Shuck noticed her ability and invited her to play at the varsity level, she was anxious.
“When I went over there, I was a nervous wreck,” she said. But Max Shuck and her teammates taught Holloway the techniques and life lessons that allowed her to become an excellent basketball player.
“They taught me a lot, both on and off the court,” Holloway said of her teammates. “It was an honor to play with each of them.”
Holloway’s message was about gratitude, and she gave thanks by name to coaches and family members who made her athletic adventure possible.
“I just wanted to win; that’s all I wanted to do,” she said.