Former Pine Ridge standout, Louis Tyon was inducted into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame during induction ceremonies on March 24, 2018. Tyon helped lead Pine Ridge to three trips to the state tournament in the early 60's including bringing a state title home in 1962. Tyon and his wife, Catherine currently live in Park City Utah.
By Rich Winter
In late November of 2017 while at home in Park City Utah, former Pine Ridge standout ball player and counselor, Louis Tyon received a call from a nephew telling him he had been selected to be inducted into the South Dakota high school Basketball Hall-of-Fame. At first Tyon wasn’t sure what to make of the call, and then, while still on the phone, Tyon’s daughter, Misty, rang in on the other line with the same news.
“At first I didn’t believe it,” Tyon said. “It’s quite an honor for me and I’m really proud to be in the Hall-of-Fame.
Tyon was part of an early 1960’s squad that helped put Pine Ridge basketball on the map by reaching the state tournament in three consecutive seasons.
1961 – Pine Ridge 7that state tournament
1962 – Pine Ridge – STATE CHAMPS
1963 – Pine Ridge – State runner-ups
The journey to that elite run for Pine Ridge started long before Tyon and his teammates ever donned the Thorpe uniform. With his dad working in the power plant and his mom working as a mason, Tyon said most of the Pine Ridge kids stayed in the dorm and constantly played basketball.
“Three or four of those guys, Ghost Bear, Marvin Red Elk, Philmore He Crow and Wilmer Kills Warrior, we stuck together and played together,” Tyon said. “The coaches stayed with us in the dorm so we played together all through elementary.”
1962 – In the opening round of the state tournament, Tyon scored 19 points to help the Thorpes edge Murdo in overtime, 55-51. In the semis, the boys from Pine Ridge slipped past Bridgewater, 36-34 setting up the final against McIntosh and their stud player Homer White Buffalo.
In the days before social media, the guys from Pine Ridge didn’t think White Buffalo was Native American. He was dark skinned and the guys from Pine Ridge assumed he was African American.
Until he started speaking Lakota to them during the game!!
“Back in those days we spoke the Indian language, the Lakota language,” Tyon said. “Towards the end of the game he started talking back to us and we got to going at it pretty good.”
In what might have been one of the best Lakota Trash-Talking moments in state championship history, White Buffalo finished with 22 points but Pine Ridge prevailed 70-68, as Tyon scored 15 points including two, late-game free throws.
Pine Ridge finished that 1962 season with a 25-3 record with one of those losses coming to Todd County, who was led by Bill and Ted Means.
Tyon said he runs into Bill Means about once a year and Bill reminds him of the late-game basket that rolled in to give the state champs one of their three losses on the season.
In 1963 Pine Ridge reached the state title game again, this time losing to Alexandria, 82-65.
Tyon earned a spot on the All-State teams in 1962 and 1963, averaging 20 points and leading the Thorpes in rebounding.
At 5-feet-11 inches, Tyon was the tallest Thorpe on the floor. With a lack of height, Tyon and his teammates unleashed a ferocious press that wore down the bigger east river teams.
“We pressed about 95 percent of the time,” Tyon said. “We ran into 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-10 guys and our goal was to get those big, farmer guys running.”
In one state tournament game, The Thorpes were down by 20 to the Monroe Wooden Shoed Canaries but came storming back to win the game.
“We had Monroe so flustered they made a basket in our hoop,” Tyon said.
Of course when you have a team reaching the state tournament three years in a row, Thorpe Nation was alive and well in the early 60’s as Tyon remembers gyms filled to the brim with Pine Ridge supporters.
“The Hospital and the Tribe and the Agencies, all those guys backed us,” Tyon said. “The gym in Pine Ridge now was new then and they used to jam pack that thing for every game.”
Of course playing in the early 60’s, Tyon and his teammates were inundated with racial slurs at some of the bigger gyms they saw during Districts and Regions.
“They used to call us dog-eaters and gut-eaters,” Tyon said. “It never made me mad but some of my teammates used to get all fired up.”
After high school, Tyon played at Northern State University under the direction of Bob Wachs. Tyon also played for a bit at Chadron State before getting an undergraduate degree at Black Hills State. Tyon and his wife, Catherine spent some time in California with Tyon working in the electronics field. Eventually, Tyon earned a Masters Degree from the University of Antioch in Denver and came to work as a counselor at both Pine Ridge and Little Wound before retiring in 2004. The Tyon’s have two children, Misty and Louis.
While the rest of the 2018 inductees into the South Dakota high school Basketball Hall-of-Fame gathered in Sioux Falls on March 24, Tyon stayed in Park City to keep tabs on his grandson, Delaney Tyon, a champion ski racer in Utah. (Tyon’s daughter, Misty, stood in for her father at the induction ceremonies).
The entire process of being inducted into the Hall-of-Fame brought back a lot of memories for Tyon.
“I didn’t think that much about what we did in the 1960’s, my daughter thought it was a big deal,” Tyon said. “A little bit later it hits you because at the time you don’t realize the magnitude of what you’ve done.”
After being selected, Tyon started going through some past inductees. Seeing some of the elite names made Tyon appreciate his nomination. Going through the lists also reminded him of some of the players he remembers that aren’t in the HOF.
“Cheyenne Eagle Butte won a state title in 1959 with Freddie Knife and a Begola (?) and none of those guys made it,” Tyon said. “If someone would have supported them, some of those older guys could have done great things.”
With a grandson soon headed off to college, the Tyon’s are considering moving back to South Dakota, perhaps Spearfish, by the end of the year.