His basketball team was just about to take the court to begin practice. So, Curtis Norwood, the men's basketball coach at South Puget Sound Community College, shooed off two students shooting baskets in between class.
Norwood turned to go back into the locker room and the two players started to leave. Then Norwood paused and turned to ask a question he’ll never regret.
“I asked the taller young man if he’d ever played basketball,” Norwood said.
Alexy Lagerberg nodded yes, saying he had played two years in high school. That led to a tryout right then, which led to the 6-foot-6 Lagerberg making the team and starting at forward.
“It was almost a divine moment,” Norwood said. “We were in need of bodies.”
Four players had just been ruled academically ineligible. And Norwood was in need of help. Norwood loaned his newly found forward shorts and sneakers to practice that day.
“I saw that he had height,” Norwood said. “He was athletic. He moved well.”
Even though he is tall, Lagerberg seemed to be an unlikely prospect. Yes, he had played high school basketball, starting as a freshman and sophomore at Timberline. But, tired of the demands, he quit, transferred to Olympia High and didn’t play high school basketball again.
“I just felt that basketball demanded too much,” Lagerberg said. “So, I decided I didn’t want to play for the rest of high school.”
Lagerberg didn’t play his first year out of high school while he attended SPSCC. So, three years had passed since he’d played his last organized game of basketball.
“I had played some pickup games,” Lagerberg said. “But that was about it.”
The rust from the layoff showed early. In his first game in three years, Lagerberg scored four points, on 2-of-6 shooting from the field in SPSCC’s season opener, a win against Shoreline. He also had 10 rebounds and six turnovers.
For the season, Lagerberg averages 7.7 points and 5.0 rebounds, shooting 47 percent from the field. Prior to Wednesday’s game, he was averaging 17.6 points over the prior three games, scoring a season-high 20 points in an 87-75 loss to Highline. “He’s turned into quite a player,” Norwood said. “He’s finding his stride his second time around.”
Lagerberg’s nickname seems appropriate for how his basketball season has gone. Everyone calls him “Lucky.”
He admits he’s still a work in progress.
“For the first couple of games, I was a little nervous,” Lagerberg said. “The first couple of games I was wondering if I could get back and play this game. The game moved a lot faster.”
For the first three games, Lagerberg had more turnovers (18) than points (13). But after committing six turnovers in each of the first three games, he’s averaged 1.6 turnovers since.
In Lagerberg’s first week of practice, he showed up late to a Saturday morning drills. Norwood wondered if his new forward had decided not to play. But Lagerberg had to run a couple of miles from his house in Olympia because the buses don’t run that early.
Now, the kid who once quit basketball is back in the game.
“It’s fun,” Lagerberg said. “Coach is a good guy. I’m thinking I want to play here again next year.”
Saint Martin’s can’t catch a break.
The Saints men’s basketball team has lost six straight, three in overtime and a fourth on a buzzer-beating putback. That drops their record to 11-12.
In its last two games, Saint Martin’s lost 92-86 in OT at Western Washington and 95-92 in OT at Simon Fraser. The Saints hope to end their skid in their next game on Saturday at Western Oregon.
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443 firstname.lastname@example.org