From Left Field
By BOB SHRALUKA
In his days on the basketball court, Norb Witte was mostly unstoppable. Far removed from those days, cancer finally stopped him, but not before he stood toe to toe with it and gave it his best shots.
Norb was a big guy and his refusal to bow to cancer made distinctly clear that he had a big heart as well. It was in 2001 when, due to the disease, Norb had his voice box removed.
So for over 10 years, he carried a pencil or pen and a notepad in order to be able to communicate with people. And as longtime friend Norb Bultemeier will tell you, it didn't keep him from enjoying life.
"He'd come up (from his home in South Carolina) and we'd always get together," Bultemeier recalls. "Sometimes we'd go to Convoy (Ohio), he had a lot of friends there. I suppose we wrote back and forth for 15 or more years."
We had the welcome opportunity to meet with Norb several years ago when he was back in town for a class reunion and found him not even slightly bitter about the hand he'd been dealt.
Witte will always rank as one of the greatest basketball players ever produced in Adams County. At 6-10 and relatively agile for someone so tall, Norb and the Monmouth High School Eagles ruled the county and the area. He was surrounded by several other good players and an excellent coach in Charles (Porky) Holt. From 1953 through 1956, they won four consecutive Sectional championships in a day when there were as many as eight to 11 teams in the field, all of them county rivals, and few games were easy.
Norb later went to Indiana University on a scholarship and played for Branch McCracken.
His son, Courtney, also played at IU, from 1984-86 under Bob Knight. In fact, he was the first junior college recruit to play for Knight after spending two seasons at Vincennes University.
Today, Courtney is director of player personnel for the Philadelphis 76ers. He has spent 22 years in NBA front offices, 11 of them with the Indiana Pacers. He joined the 76ers for the 1998-99 season, working his way up to director of scouting and then to his current position.
One to remember
One of the most memorable games in Witte's career came in the 1956 Sectional championship game at Adams Central against the Decatur Yellow Jackets. It matched not only two outstanding teams, but two great coaches of that era, Monmouth's Holt and Decatur's Bob Worthman.
Good friends off the court, the two went at it full fury on the basketball floor. And when Porky (who's currently vacationing in Florida) had Norb, he usually had the high card.
But on this night, it looked like Decatur was going to halt Monmouth's string of Sectional titles at three. Scoring with just seconds left, Decatur had a one-point lead.
The Eagles, however, got a big break when Stu Schnepf was closest to the out-of-bounds line after the Yellow Jackets' go-ahead basket. The ref handed him the ball and Schnepf fired a pass to Dave Brown near the center of the court.
Wisely, Brown didn't try to put up a last-second prayer; instead he threw another long pass, this one to Witte, and he went up over Decatur's Terry Murphy — who gave away seven or eight inches — for a close-in hoop that gave the Eagles the win.
The kicker to the tale is that we ran into Murphy not long ago at the Lutheran Health Network's ice arena in Fort Wayne and it was but a short time before he brought up that game and that play of so long ago.
Some memories fade, but never go away.
More Miller magic
Speaking of memories, it's time for the annual Dave Miller Review.
Miller, let go as girls basketball coach at Bellmont a generation or so ago due mainly to a personal vendetta, continues to pile up coaching accomplishments at Concordia High School in Fort Wayne
The northern Adams County native is seeking a third consecutive girls 3A Regional title on Saturday, and went all the way to a state title two years ago. The Cadets are 17-5 going into Saturday.