Home » 1975 Jimmies women’s basketball reflecting 49 years later

1975 Jimmies women’s basketball reflecting 49 years later

JAMESTOWN — When Title IX was passed into law in 1972, it opened the door for women’s sports to start all around the country, including at Jamestown College, where they started a women’s basketball team in 1975.

The team’s first-ever head coach was Dennis Van Berkum who was hired by Rollie Greeno because of his previous experience coaching girls basketball. Van Berkum said Greeno didn’t give him a choice on whether to coach the women’s basketball team, he was told that he was continuing to coach on the football team and that he would coach the baseball team and the women’s basketball team.

“I was inexperienced in college basketball, actually I walked into Rollie’s office, I was hired in the summer of that year,” Van Berkum said. “I knew very little about it. The women that participated all of them were volunteers, Jeanne Tews, I think, was the only one that was scholarship … They all were just great gals that wanted to play some basketball. That’s really what it comes down to.”

According to the 1976 yearbook, the Jimmies women’s basketball team went 3-10 in their inaugural season. Van Berkum said his team only had eight players on the roster during the first season including Tews who averaged 22.2 points per game, according to the yearbook. Van Berkum said one of the team’s challenges was that they were practicing in the Hansen Center. Tews said the team played schools like the University of Mary, Valley City State University and Aberdeen State University.

“They worked hard, the biggest thing was we practiced in the old memorial gym,” We did end up playing our games downtown in the (Jamestown) Civic Center some at the latter part of the year. But, we worked on the fundamentals, they all just worked hard. They’re a good group of women but we played the likes of North Dakota State, even those from the junior college, we competed but we just run out of gas with six or eight people. If you go from the memorial gym to the full court at North Dakota State it was like running two basketball courts at one time. They worked hard, they played hard and they got to be very very close.”

Van Berkum said the teams they faced were all around longer than them so they had recruited players whereas he did not recruit any players for the inaugural team. Prior to the season beginning, Van Berkum said the school put up fliers informing those who wanted to play about the creation of the team. He humorously said those who were on the team taught him about how to live in North Dakota.

“We had some really good times,” Van Berkum said. “They were the ones that taught me about traveling in North Dakota, I remember. We would travel to for example Williston in the middle of the winter, they all came with their winter travel game and I didn’t have a clue of that. I wasn’t ready for the winters, there were just some fun things like that. We had the typical Jamestown College pregame meal which was sandwiches, bologna, cheese sandwiches from the dining hall and that’s what we traveled with.”

When she thinks about her favorite memories of playing at Jamestown College, she thinks about the times she spent playing and traveling around the state.

During her senior year, Tews became the first player in program history to score 1,000 points in a career. She finished her career with 1,081 points. After scoring her 1,000th point and the game stopped and she got a commemorative ball. Once that happened, Jimmies head coach Jim Clark told her to gie the ball to her son Matt to keep.

“It was an honor, at the time I didn’t even realize that it was even happening to be very honest with you,” Tews said. “I go to the game and they were setting up the sound system and I think, ‘what is this for?’ Of course, I didn’t realize I was that close to scoring a thousand points. When I scored my 1,00th point, they stopped everything and of course, the adrenaline was just flowing and I’m going, what’s going on, and so they stopped and presented me with the ball. I’m sitting here with the ball and I’m not sure what to do with it.”

As of Nov. 16, Tews is one of 24 players in program history to reach the 1,000-point mark.

Over the years. Tews said she has seen women’s basketball players improve tremendously. She said it makes her happy and she enjoys watching the sport and how it has developed over the years since she last played at Jamestown College.

“Well when I played we used a men’s ball, there was no women’s ball, there was no three-point play for anybody, but we didn’t have that,” Tews said. “The first year we only played 12 games and they’ve slowly added. The players have become taller, stronger, bigger, when I played I was one of the bigger players, I was a guard, and I’m like 5’6. I’m not saying we weren’t good, I think we were pretty good but these guys are just phenomenal.”

My name is Max O’Neill. I am a Sports Reporter at The Jamestown Sun. I am a native New Yorker, who graduated from Ithaca College in 2020 with a degree in Television-Radio.