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Don Overturf, Basketball Player
My father, Don Overturf, played basketball at Hastings High School, Hastings, Nebraska, in 1933 and 1934. He played again at Hastings College in 1935, 1937, and 1938.
In the local newspaper articles, his speed, agility and enthusiasm were always highlighted. Here's an example from a game between Hastings College and Peru, Nebraska in February 1937 which was called a "fast game" by the reporter.
The article went on to say:
"Little Don Overturf, Bronco forward, was the sparkplug. He caught three fast baskets during the surge simply by outspeeding his guard.
"'A fellow simply shouldn’t be that fast on a basketball floor,' wryly said Coach Stuart Baller of Peru after the game in tribute to the diminutive Overturf’s floor play."
My father talked many times of his basketball playing experiences, but it wasn’t until after his death that I acquired copies of newspaper articles about the games. I also inherited his Hastings High School and Hastings College yearbooks. Together, this information reveals the fun he had. It was a special time in his life — a time which he never forgot — and he told his children of his exploits many, many times. I’m only surprised that I did not see the articles and yearbooks until after his death.
On this page I discuss the two years of high school competitions. He also had an active career at Hastings College in 1935, 1936, and 1938.
Hastings High School 1933
The 1933 basketball season for the Hastings High team was a good one. My father, Don Overturf, had just begun to play basketball, but some of his teammates were a little more experienced. Still, all in all, they were a young, rookie team. They got their photograph in the paper as they headed for the championship game with Columbus High.
The team looked promising from the beginning and the first article in the newspaper, prior to their game against Fairbury, itemized the team’s individual heights and weights. My father was the smallest at 5’ 6-1/2” tall and weighing only 127 pounds. But it would be this height and weight which would single him out amongst his teammates. He moved with agility and skill. He was called small, diminutive, short, little ... and any other synonym you can think of for small. But he was a high scorer, and often was second only to the tallest members of the team.
The Hastings High Tigers won their first game against Fairbury, 36-20. They were looking like contenders for the state high school basketball title but lost 14-12 to Columbus High School of Lincoln, Nebraska, at the end of the season. They would face them again in 1934.
The full team proudly posed for their 1933 yearbook photograph (below). This is a copy of my father’s yearbook page with notes from three of the players.
Hastings High School 1934
Here they are: The stars of the 1934 Hastings High School Basketball Team. My father, Don Overturf, is one of them. Also featured are: John “Cotney” Hopp, Orville Ringsted, Raymond Crosson, and Dale Skaggs. They formed the nucleus of the team that year and they hoped they could win the state championships after coming in second the year before. 2
Could they do it? Could they break the previous year’s scores and get into the finals again? No doubt they had plenty of confidence, but there can be little doubt that they entered the season with high hopes.
At the end of the season, the local paper had a lengthy article about the Hastings High football, basketball, and track seasons. The five men in the starting line-up -- Skaggs, Crosson, Hopp, Ringsted, and Overturf -- participated in every game. They had four wins within two weeks: Red Cloud, Franklin, Omaha Central and the Curtis Aggies all lost to the Hastings High Tigers. That was all before Christmas.
In the New year, they just kept winning, beating both Clay Center and Holdrege. The Crete Cardinals were embarrassed by the Tigers in a 33-23 defeat. Then two more wins — one against Geneva and another against Fairbury. The Tigers seemed unbeatable.
But that changed with a devastating defeat of 16-30 to the Grand Island team, traditional rivals. A second and third defeat followed almost immediately: Jackson and then Lincoln.
Fans were sure it would all work out in the end, and it did. They won the next four games: Norfolk, Columbus High (a tight one, 16-15), Beatrice and Kearney. As with the Hastings High football team that year, they won the Mid-State League championship.
The loss to Grand Island no doubt remained in the minds of the fans and the players for years to come. The newspaper article clearly told of their pain. The headline read: "Islanders Trim Tigers 30 to 16." The sub-headline: "G.I. Team Stops Hastings Cold in Friday Night Tilt."
But they lost only three games, and one of them — against Geneva — was such a rout that the reporter for the article spent more time writing about other things (see article below). I wish I knew who he was. He was really quite clever. The game, which Hastings controlled throughout the evening, was so boring that he and the scorekeeper found something even more interesting to watch.
And so, my father graduated from Hastings High School and ended his high school basketball career. But he was to play for three more years at Hastings College, each year bringing him more fame with his fans, including his sweetheart (my mother).
And a Final Word:
In January 2011, I was contacted by Mr. Greg Mays, a 1986 Hastings High graduate and now a teacher at Hastings High. He played basketball at both Hastings High and Hastings College and he sent me some more information about Hasting High’s 1934 team and the Hopp brothers:
“They finished the year with three games that the ’34 Tiger doesn’t mention. First, they beat Blue Hill, 27-15, in an exhibition game at the regional tournament that HHS hosted (in the Manual Arts gym which was built in 1936) ... Regional qualification for state was still new in ’34 and the state...excluded some of the traditional powers like Hastings; instead, the Tigers hosted the tournament but didn’t play, having been granted automatic qualification to the state tournament. After that, they played Kearney and beat the Bearcats, 32-11. Kearney was a traditional opponent and a member of the Mid-States Conference, so I assume that this was a regular season game. Then they went to Lincoln for state and were upset in the first round by North Platte, 21-18. It’s all conjecture on my part, but I don’t think the automatic qualification did them any good — probably made them a little rusty, come tourney time.”
Mr. Mays goes on to say: “Johnny ‘Cotney’ Hopp went on to play major league baseball for the Yankees and Cardinals, appearing in World Series with both teams. His younger brother Harry ‘Hippity Hopp’ (HHS ’37) played in the NFL for the Detroit Lions. younger brother Wally ‘Hosea’ Hopp was on the Nebraska 1941 Rose Bowl team, the first Husker bowl team ever. Eldest brother Albert ‘Ruff’ Hopp was on the ’33 team with your father. He was later my little league football coach!”
For more: Go to Hastings College in 1935, 1936, and 1938.
[This page researched and written by Susan Overturf Ingraham, a daughter of Don Overturf. Last updated January 26, 2016.]