SIOUX CITY – Kirk Hinrich left a lasting impression on West High basketball.
Hinrich, who grew up dreaming of playing basketball at West High, donned the green and white for four varsity seasons, three as a starter for teams coached by his father, Jim.
The 1999 graduate, who led the Wolverines to their first state title in any sport during the 1998-99 season, will be honored Friday with a jersey retirement ceremony at halftime of the varsity game between West and East.
Hinrich’s No. 12 uniform will forever be displayed for all that walk the halls of the gym corridor at West High.
“It’s an incredible honor,” said Hinrich. “I grew up dreaming about it. The dream for me was to play varsity basketball for West, my dad was the coach.
“It was something, that place is very special to me, it’s an extreme honor and I’m very humbled.”
Excuse Hinrich, then, if Friday becomes a little emotional for someone who spent much of his childhood attending practices and games, watching his father build a program.
“I don’t know, my wife (the former Jill Fisher) says I am going to cry,” said Hinrich. “It’s a huge honor. West High was it for me, basically that’s where my dream was and after I got to West, started playing varsity, the dream got a little bigger.
“That was my dream, that was what I wanted to do. I grew up chasing the ball around in the gym, in the hallways, was going to all the practices that I could, seeing all the time my mom (Nancy) and dad put into that program to try and make it good and give kids opportunities.”
Hinrich, who is currently a lead academy specialist for Sanford POWER Basketball in Sioux Falls, was named Iowa Mr. Basketball, along with college teammate Nick Collison, an Iowa Falls graduate, following his senior season at West.
A 1998-99 season that began 1-3, followed by a 21-game winning streak, that saw the future Kansas Jayhawk score a school-record and then-metro City best of 579 points in one season.
“It’s my jersey going up, but it’s the culmination of the work my parents did and the good teammates that I had,” said Hinrich. “That’s kind of how I look at it. I’m fortunate enough to have my jersey going up there and I’m thrilled about it, but it’s more than that, so many people that helped me along the way made my experience at West so great.”
Hinrich, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, played on four state tournament teams for West, still the only ones in school history, and teams that accumulated an 82-9 mark.
“When I was young, watching, I kind of idolized the high school basketball team. There were so many guys that I looked up too, my dad’s former players,” said Hinrich. “To see them come close all those years, never be able to make it to state, we were lucky enough to win my senior year. A big goal when I got to high school was to help my dad get over the hump.”
West posted successive seasons of 19-2, 21-2 and 20-2 records before Kirk’s senior year that culminated in a 22-3 state title team.
There were two agonizing one-point first-round state tournament losses during Kirk’s freshman and junior years that were sandwiched around a state title game loss to Dean Oliver and Mason City his sophomore year.
The state championship in 1999, a 65-57 win over West Des Moines Valley, snapped a long 65-year state title drought in hoops in Sioux City.
“It was special for us no matter how many (years wait), didn’t really matter for us,” said Hinrich. “It was special to us. Dad worked his butt off to try and build a program and our family always around trying to help his players, help give them opportunities.
“My four years there we had some great, great teams and it’s a lot of great memories. I wouldn’t necessarily single out the last year that we won, even though we were lucky enough to win, because I know we had great teams.
Playing in front of a packed house each and every night was the norm for the Wolverines back in the late 90’s. The four years Hinrich put on the West uniform saw the team lose just once at home.
“It was just a great time. The way the community and the way the westside fans supported us,” said Hinrich. “It’s really, really special to come out there and have fun and compete and have everybody (a) packed gym supporting us. It was just a really exciting time in our lives.”
Hinrich, who also participated in track and field and baseball during his time at West, is still the school’s career record holder in points, assists and steals. He sat eighth on the state’s career assist chart with 459 at the time of his graduation, while he also holds school season marks for made field goals along with assists and steals.
“It was a great time in my life, just great experiences, great memories,” said Hinrich. “It’s just a big honor to have it done.
“As soon as I was old enough to go to the games I was at every game, watched my dad try to build a program. I have good relationships and good memories with a lot of his former players and all of his assistants that he had over the year.
West left a lasting impression on Hinrich.
"I would just like to thank all of my family, friends, teammates, teachers, coaches and the whole community that supported me not just while I played at West but throughout my whole career," he said. "I always felt an overwhelming amount of people pulling for me to do well and it was and is greatly appreciated.
“It’s just a special place for me, for our family, I kind of grew up in that gym.”
A gym that will now always have a memory of Hinrich as well.