Remembering a backcourt star
During the 100-plus years that have passed since Douglas County High School put its first basketball team on the court, the Tigers’ star never shined brighter than it did during a period between 1959 and ’61.
Just consider that Douglas won three straight Northern Class A championships and finished as a state runner-up during two of those seasons in Nevada’s medium schools division.
And Roger McDonald was part of that run every step of the way.
McDonald, who passed away on Dec. 31 at his home with many of his beloved family members by his side, may not have been the tallest player around or put up flashy statistics. He was talented enough to play football (as a quarterback) as well as baseball, and in basketball, helped spark the Tigers during his four seasons as a starting guard between 1957-61.
McDonald was inducted into the Douglas Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990 in recognition of a career in which he received Northern A zone tournament all-star team honors as a junior and senior. Coach Earl Jarrett reflected on what the 5-foot-10, 170-pound guard meant to those Tigers in the Jan. 18, 1990 edition of The Record-Courier.
“Roger started as a freshman and lettered all four years. He was an outstanding guard, a hard worker and just an all-around good kid,” Jarrett said at the time.
Milt Simmons, a pallbearer at McDonald’s service on Jan. 6 at Dresslerville Gym, remembered the sheer determination this week when he spoke about his former teammate and longtime friend.
“He’s on that Wall of Fame in the high school gym, and he deserves to be there,” Simmons said. “When Roger and Harold (Wyatt) played, they laid it all on the floor. They gave 100 percent as long as they were on the floor, no matter who they played. There were no half-way measures with either of those guys.”
Jarrett echoed those words in 1990: “Roger and Harold Wyatt played well together and with the big kids underneath, that helped a lot.”
In 1960, The Record-Courier reported that McDonald scored on two free throws and a “net-snapping” outside shot down the stretch against Winnemucca in the zone tournament championship game at the University of Nevada Gym. McDonald scored 11 points in the game to help Douglas complete its come-from-behind 41-37 win.
In 1961, the Tigers defeated Lovelock 70-61 to win their third straight zone tournament championship. McDonald was named to the all-tournament team, joined on the all-star list by Douglas teammates Bill Kinkel, Mike Kinkel and Lloyd Anderson.
Scoring was not, however, where McDonald truly excelled on a basketball court. That is, No. 32 was a key component for the Tigers in their tenacious 2-1-2 zone defense.
“He and Johnny Manke played out front and they covered so much ground on our zone defense,” Simmons said. “With Hans Boeving (6-foot-7) and then Bill Kinkel (6-9), those guys made it a lot easier for those us who were playing in the back.
“Roger was so quick and extremely aggressive, he caused a lot of turnovers and we got a lot of easy points off those turnovers,” Simmons added. “He had a very nice outside set shot and then a very good medium-range jump shot, but his thing was defense. When you were playing one-on-one, you’d better be paying attention because if you made a mistake, he was going to get that ball. And thing that is really amazing, I think, as aggressive as he was, I cannot ever remember Roger fouling out of a game. He played smart; Harold was the same way, too.”
While still a student at Douglas High School Alan Reed — now Warren Reed Insurance president — listed the Tigers all-time greatest basketball players in the Nov. 20, 1969 edition of The Record-Courier. In that story, Reed wrote of McDonald: “Eleventh on the all-time scoring list, Roger sparked the Tigers to a 50-10 record from 1958 through 1961. He was captain of the 1960-61 team that went undefeated in conference.”
After graduating from high school in 1961, McDonald attended barber school with Simmons in San Francisco, and in time, both returned home to Carson Valley. Simmons would eventually become a businessman (Main Street Barber Shop in Gardnerville). McDonald joined the National Guard and eventually started a family of his own and worked as a heavy equipment operator.
“He loved heavy equipment. After he went to barber school, he said, ‘You know what? I think I want to run equipment,’ and he ” Simmons recalled.
“Roger was a hard working man … he was smart and he made good decisions in his life … he was just a special individual. Harold and Roger were just both neat, neat men. I’m proud to call both of them my friends.”