Column: College sports hall of fame welcomes Aspen alum Moss Schermerhorn
The Aspen Times
He learned to learn growing up in Aspen.
He learned the game at Aspen High School.
He also learned to suffer and endure and excel under a stern taskmaster of a basketball coach at Aspen High School.
Recently, he learned that he will be inducted into the Washington University Sports Hall of Fame in St. Louis.
Moss Schermerhorn, basketball standout/Aspen High School Class of 2004, will be honored next month with his college basketball teammates from the Wash U national championship men’s basketball team of 2007-08 (NCAA Division III).
Schermerhorn and his college team will be celebrated as part of the class of 2016 in the Sports Hall of Fame at the private university, which features a hefty academic legacy.
“We peaked in the right time at the (NCAA) tournament,” Schermerhorn said in a telephone interview this week from his home in Chicago, where he works in health care technology. “We had a lot of tribulations that season. It was not easy. It was a blemished year, but we played really well as a unit (at the end of the season).”
He said a series of setbacks and unfortunate incidents led to a disjointed season.
Just a year earlier, the Bears of Wash U were ranked No. 1 in the country in Division III with eyes on a national title.
“We were really, really good, … but there was kind of an epic meltdown,” Schermerhorn said.
Frustrated by their play at the end of his junior season and more frustrated by “bad dynamics” within the team, Schermerhorn considered not playing as a senior.
But he had been through tough situations before — like the legendary two-a-day practice grind under then-Aspen High School coach Steve Ketchum.
So Schermerhorn went back to the Washington University men’s basketball program for one more season.
And out of the tumultuous ashes rose a team of Bears who ultimately embraced their particular roles and formed what would become a national championship, hall of fame squad.
They finished 25-6 and defeated Amherst College 90-68 in the NCAA Division III national championship game, played in Salem, Virginia.
Schermerhorn said the team lost its All-American starting point guard in the third game of the season.
But teammate Ross Kelley, a sophomore, stepped up in a big way, he said.
And senior Troy Ruths, Schermerhorn’s roommate, evolved into the national player of the year and the most outstanding player of the NCAA championships.
Ruths will be inducted as an individual in the Washington University Sports Hall of Fame.
“I still maintain a lot of relationships with that team,” said Schermerhorn, the son of George and Helen Schermerhorn of Aspen.
The dramatic ups and downs of that championship season drew the team even closer.
At one point, the Bears lost a conference road game by 40 points.
“It was one of those ‘what the hell’ moments,” Schermerhorn said.
A week later, the Washington University men’s team beat that same conference foe by 20 points.
Schermerhorn and his former teammates will relive those moments and many others at the Hall of Fame induction Feb. 12.
The team also will have a reunion for the February wedding of teammate Danny O’Boyle.
Schermerhorn said his path to Washington University was guided by academics.
Plus, a basketball recruiting visit sold him on the Division III program.
The basketball, in many ways, would be the easy part of a Wash U education after some trying days in high school basketball.
“Ketchum can be a bit of a drill sergeant,” Schermerhorn said of his prep coach. “He pushed us; he pushed some buttons along the way. I remember his two-a-days were rough.”
But the Skiers improved, he said. And they won games, played in the state tournament.
“He understands basketball,” Schermerhorn said. “I grew as a player under him.”
In college, he encountered a totally different coaching orientation from a soft-spoken veteran in Mark Edwards, who was the national Division III coach of the year in 2008 (his 27th year at Washington University).
Schermerhorn, for his part, embraced his role as a contributor to that national championship team.
He played in 31 games as a senior; 24 as a junior.
He even got a chance to play college basketball against former high school teammate Nick Farrell, who played at Colby College in Maine.
Schermerhorn not only embraced his role on the basketball team — he also embraced his role as a Wash U student.
“I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to go to (Washington University),” Schermerhorn said.
As for basketball, he couldn’t have asked for a better ending.
“That is the fairy-tale story you hope for — to go out with a win,” he said.
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There might be part of Hailey Swirbul that is finally beginning to believe she belongs. The 22-year-old cross-country skier is coming off quite a stretch with the U.S. ski team, one that includes her first career World Cup podium and a successful go in the notorious Tour de Ski stage race.