FOREST CITY — Rob Kampman is easily one of the most traveled Forest City basketball players to ever play for the Indians. And no one was happier to see him last weekend than his 2001 FCHS teammates.
“It’s been a few years since I’ve been back for the alumni tournament,” he said after the first round games Friday night. “Seven, maybe 10 years, I’m not sure.”
Despite not being a regular at the annual tournament, there are always whispers around the basketball court this time of year: “Is Kampman going to be back?” Indian fans wonder.
This year he was back for a speaking engagement on Thursday night, followed by a couple of days of basketball.
Kampman played on two state tournament teams for the Indians and was the school’s all-time leading scorer, graduating in 2001. He went on to play college basketball at Wichita State.
“They weren’t as good as they have been in the recent years,” he said with a smile, comparing his time with the team to Wichita State’s five-year-string of NCAA tournament appearances beginning in 2012, including a Final 4 appearance in 2013.
“It is awesome to see them doing so well,” he said. “It’s a quality program and a quality school and the whole community rallies with them.”
Even though Kampman’s playing days were before the Shockers gained national prominence as a NCAA Tournament threat, they were a power, winning the Missouri Valley Conference. Averaging just under 10 points per game, Kampman was the MVC most-improved player between his sophomore and junior year.
After that he played international pro basketball for eight years, traveling to Portugal to play one year and then another eight years in Australia.
“This is really where it all started,” said Kampman. “Right here at the Forest City YMCA. My mom worked here and I played here all the time.”
In Friday night’s game, the 2001 team defeated 1997. Kampman joined nine classmates in a fast-paced game where he scored 11 points. Like old times, he went inside most of the time and also added a convincing three-point field goal.
“We’re all older and slower now,” Kampman said. “We think we’re still fast and the personalities are still the same, so it’s a lot of fun.”
Kampman is now a full-time firefighter in Wichita. He said he plays in a basketball league when his 24-hour-on, 24-hour-off schedule allows.
“I still keep in touch with four or five of the guys” from high school, he said. “We don’t talk a lot, but when we do we pick up right where we left off.”
Ben Hauge was a childhood friend and teammate of Kampman. He was also on the 2001alumni tournament team that reached last weekend’s 1994 to 2002 Division Championship game.
“He was a level above everybody,” said Hauge of Kampman. “I’d say Rob had a basketball IQ above everybody else.”
Both Kampman and Hauge agreed that participating in the alumni tournaments always prompt memories of growing up in Forest City and playing for the Indians.