PLATTEVILLE — More than 150 youth basketball players and a dozen college and high school coaches from the area came together Monday at UW–Platteville to honor the memory of Steve Randall.
The free, one-day Steve L. Randall Basketball Camp was the largest and most successful in the decade long run of the event. It was also a chance for those close to Randall and the game of basketball to give back to southwest Wisconsin in the name of a man they loved.
The camp was the brainchild of University of Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard, a graduate of Iowa–Grant High School and UW–Platteville, and a former assistant coach for the Pioneers under Bo Ryan during the 1990s.
As a junior and senior, Gard played for Randall’s Iowa–Grant teams, and alongside Randall’s son Lance, helped the Panthers reach the 1989 Class C state tournament.
The unexpected passing of Steve Randall after a medical mistake during a routine angioplasty surgery in the fall of 2004 left his family, friends and those he touched through basketball hurting.
Gard came up with the idea to host a free youth basketball camp at Iowa–Grant in Randall’s honor. Lance, a son following in his father’s coaching footsteps, was the first to join the cause.
“I remember back to how much time Steve put in with the younger groups at Iowa–Grant,” said Gard. “He knew a good program started with the kids. I thought, what can we do to give back and keep Steve’s name alive. Most of the people here today don’t know who Steve is, but his legacy of giving to others lives on with this camp. It was also great therapy for all of us at that time after the loss of Steve.”
That first summer in 2005, 30 kids — all of them from Iowa–Grant — showed up for the camp. The camp outgrew Iowa–Grant in 2012 and was moved to UW–Platteville with the help of Jeff Gard, the UW–P men’s basketball coach and younger brother of Greg.
This year 155 campers from all over southwest Wisconsin attended the camp. T-shirts from Lancaster, Cuba City, Iowa–Grant, Belmont, Darlington, Southwestern, Dodgeville, Mineral Point, among other surrounding communities were represented on campers at this year’s event.
Both Gards, Lance Randall — the new head coach at Division II Lindenwood University in St. Louis, and their former high school teammate Dan Prochaska, a middle school teacher at Iowa–Grant, were among the camp coaches. So was Jim Blaine, the men’s head coach at Clarke College and former Benton boys’ coach, Jim Lawinger, the Platteville girls’ head coach, Tracy Krueger, the UW–Richland Center women’s coach, and Brad Clark, the boys’ head coach at Oshkosh Lourdes and 1996 Wisconsin Mr. Basketball. Clark is also Randall’s son in-law.
“This camp has been a great thing for everyone involved,” said Cindy Randall, Steve’s wife. “I don’t know if people really understand how coaching creates lifetime relationships with people. Steve loved basketball, he loved people and he loved giving back. It’s amazing to me what this camp has become. I’m astounded that people are still inspired by him after all this time. When you are a coach you love your players and you get that love in return. That love never goes away. It’s one of the lucky things about being a coach.”
Basketball is strong as ever in the Randall family, which also includes daughters Erin Clark, Maggie Albright and Chelssee DeBarra, as 12 of Steve and Cindy’s grandchildren attended Monday’s camp.
The Randall family also head a golf outing at Hickory Grove Golf Course in Fennimore last Saturday in Steve’s honor. Proceeds from the golf outing and donations at Monday’s camp are split between the Steve Randall scholarship fund at Iowa–Grant High School and the Second Harvest Food Bank of southern Wisconsin.
“The giving is so important,” said Cindy. “I feel really blessed to be a part of it. There is no pay here for the coaches. There is no fee for the kids. This is athletics at its finest. It’s really just a big basketball family.”
“This works out perfect,” added Gard. “The location and facility is perfect for a camp of this size. And the tradition and history of what I’ve been a part of in southwest Wisconsin both at Iowa–Grant and UW–Platteville is great to come back to. Fortunately when the camp outgrew Iowa–Grant we were able to move here to UW–P with the connections we have to the school.”
“This is just a great way to give back,” added Jeff Gard. “Obviously all the coaches that show up know Lance, Greg and myself, and knew Steve. The camp is a great way for us to reconnect each year and give back to the youth in the area through basketball. With the facility we have here, and the help from Mark Molseworth (UW–Platteville Athletic Director), Curt Fatzinger (UW–Platteville Facilities Director) and the university it allows us to accommodate the larger numbers of kids.”
Steve Randall coached at Iowa–Grant for 12 years from 1977–1989 leading the Panthers to the 1981 Class C state title and the 1989 state berth, their only two state appearances in boys’ basketball. Randall then coached at Oshkosh West from 1990–2004 until his death.
After his father’s passing in 2014, Lance Randall left a Division I assistant coaching job at St. Louis University to take over the program at Oshkosh West. In three seasons, he led the Wildcats to a 71–3 record and back-to-back D1 state championships in 2006 and 2007. He spent the last four seasons at St. Leo University in Florida leading the Lions to a 78–44 record and three trips to the NCAA Division II tournament before being hired at Lindenwood University in May.
“This camp is a chance for us to be involved and connect with a part of the state that means a lot to us,” said Lance. “My dad valued reaching youth through coaching and education and this is a small offshoot of that. I enjoy coming back to southwest Wisconsin each year to work with the kids of people I played with and against.”