To clear up a few misconceptions among many readers, I still live in Grand Forks. I'm only at my cabin near Bemidji when there's open water and loons around to serenade me.

But that's not what this column is about. It's about another misconception, formed from my first year in Grand Forks as a journalist.

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I came to the Grand Forks Herald in June of 1969 from the La Crosse (Wis.) Tribune, hired here by Jack Hagerty. It's a move I made because of the lure of covering Fighting Sioux hockey.

Hockey was a passion of mine, ignited by the two years I lived in Grand Forks when I was in junior high school and my Dad took me to a few UND games.

When I arrived at the Herald, I was the only person on the sports staff. I quickly hired Bruce Tellmann, he of Red Pepper fame later on, as the second staff member.

With so small of a sports staff, it meant Bruce and I were stretched thin, covering everything from high school to college to American Legion baseball.

It was in 1969 that I got my first introduction to high school basketball in Greater Grand Forks. I thought I had dropped into the basketball Mecca of the world.

Reed Monson was the star at Grand Forks Red River, Glenn Hansen was a big ticket item at Grand Forks Central and a sophomore named Kurt Knoff was starting to draw attention at East Grand Forks Senior High.

I saw all three play basketball that season and they knocked my socks off.

I remember calling back to my friends in La Crosse and telling them I couldn't believe how good high school basketball was up here.

Little did I know that I dropped into the golden era of high school basketball here, one that has not been repeated.

Monson went on to play at Tennessee and later 20 years of pro ball in Europe. Hansen starred at LSU with North Dakota native Dale Brown as his coach and later played in the NBA. Knoff played three sports at Kansas for one season, and later started as a defensive back for the Minnesota Vikings.

They were the big names in high school basketball here at the time, with plenty of talent surrounding them, such as Craig Skaperud, Jon Tufte and Bruce Daucsavage, to name a few. Skarperud and Tufte played college basketball (and baseball) at UND, Daucsavage was a starting quarterback and a good one for the Sioux football team.

My initial attraction in accepting the job at the Grand Forks Herald was getting back to hockey (there was none in La Crosse). How ironic, then, it was players like those mentioned above and a Sioux hockey program entering some lean years that quickly changed my thinking.

I believe it was the summer of 1970 that a woman called me. She said her grandson, who was going to North Carolina on a full ride in basketball, was coming up to visit her and wondered if I could arrange some pickup basketball for him so he could sharpen his game.

I arranged for Hansen and Monson to meet him one morning at the Red River gym. Hansen and Monson took turns tearing the kid up, dominating him.

Afterward, the North Carolina recruit told me he couldn't believe how good those two guys were.

"I couldn't line up the best ones in town," I deadpanned, "so these two had to do."

Cruel, I know, but I couldn't stop myself.

No doubt that kid went home that summer with great tales to tell of Greater Grand Forks basketball talent.

We've not seen the likes of them here since. In the 40 years following, all the great talent locally has been on skates and carried a stick.

Just like I thought it would be when I first arrived here 41 years ago.

Virg Foss, who wrote sports for the Grand Forks Herald for 36 years until his retirement, writes a weekly column for the Herald. Contact him at or at (701) 772-9272.