This year's edition of the South Dakota High School All-Star Games will shine like silver. This marks the silver anniversary for the games.
In its 25th year the all-star games will offer a few extra perks for the athletes, according to all-star executive director Keith Kusler of Aberdeen. The athletes will be treated to a concert by the Andy Gibson Band on Sunday at the Johnson Fine Arts Center.
The players' jerseys and back packs will sport a commemorative patch using the 25-year logo.
All-Star golf missing: After 12 seasons of competition, the sport of golf will not be present at this year's games. Last season, the sport was represented by nine boys and three girls. It became increasingly difficult to entice golfing athletes to attend the games so the sport was eliminated from the competition but not without warning.
It's been tough to get kids to come, said Kusler. We struggled and decided we had to let that one go. We gave the high school golf association a time frame to get the numbers up but it didn't happen.
Another sport that has struggled to attract athletes is wrestling. This summer the number of all-star wrestlers is around seven or eight. Kusler pointed to big summer wrestling meets that draw athletes away from the games.
The all-star committee has worked with the high school sports associations to keep the numbers up. The number of football players on each team was 40 in the past but has been expanded to 45. This year a total of 84 football players are expected to suit up. The number of basketball players per team has fluctuated between 10 to 15.
The all-star games have been missing some top athletes in the past few seasons.
Kusler pointed to Colton Iverson, a 2008 Yankton graduate, as an example of a basketball player who did not participate in the games.
Some of the blue chip recruits like Iverson, who was going to the University of Minnesota, don't attend. (Coach) Tubby Smith had him in summer school and working out in Minnesota, Kusler said.
Just recently, the games lost a football player because he was supposed to report to his college.
That's been the struggle with division one kids, said Kusler. Some coaches don't want them to participate in an all-star game for fear of getting hurt. I don't blame them not wanting their athletes to risk injury. The coaches have a lot invested in those recruits.
Kusler still feels that the games offer a quality product for fans and a unique experience for the athletes.
Expensive coffee: Sometimes a free cup of coffee can cost you in the long run. In Kusler's case a cup of coffee with former all-star director Don Reshetar cost some time.
Reshetar, who died in October 2010, was one of the movers and shakers in developing the all-star games. Kusler's involvement in the games started as a board member and in charge of obtaining officials. He worked his way up to game management before accepted the director position.
Kusler recalled that Reshetar approached him one day and asked Kusler to have a cup of coffee with him. Reshetar planted the idea that Kusler could take over as the director. Kusler declined but less than a week later Reshetar came back to Kusler.
I thought, 'I just don't have the time,' said Kusler. He said, 'I'll help you.' He was my high school football coach so it's pretty hard to turn him down. That was six years ago. Where did the time go? He did help me tremendously. He was such an organized guy. He had a file for everything. He had check lists and phone numbers.
Kusler's all-stars: Kusler can also field an all-star team with his group of assistants.
Mark Krogstrand is in his fifth year as the assistant games director. He lines up buses, housing, meals and practices.
Jon Sundberg, a student manager for former Northern State men's basketball coach Don Meyer, was in charge of contacting the athletes for their program information, insurance forms and other paperwork.
Assistant director Brenda Lanphere compiled the program information and another assistant, Renea Wensmann, sent out letters and forms to the athletes.
It's a total team effort. Everybody pitched in and we'll put out a good product during the week, said Kusler.
Games schedule: Tuesday: wrestling, 6 p.m.; girls' basketball, 8 p.m.; cheer team.
Wednesday: volleyball, 6 p.m.; boys' basketball, 8 p.m.; cheer team.
Thursday: football, 6 p.m.
Deb Smith is an American News Sports Writer who can be reached at (605) 622-2311 or firstname.lastname@example.org.