No matter how far he goes in the basketball world, no matter how many years go by, Louis Wilson of Anchorage will never lose sight of his hometown.
He remembers the people that shaped his life, the ones that stuck by his side and the fresh faces that look his way for an assist.
When the longtime college basketball coach now at Utah State University isn’t recruiting and signing Alaska players, Wilson is putting in work behind the scenes to honor and inspire the men that molded him into the person he is today.
Wilson, of East High fame, played an instrumental role in getting Chuck White and Geno Morgan memorialized in the Anchorage hoops community by naming two events after the former coaches.
“It is important to honor these two men of monumental consequences because they epitomized community,” Wilson told me.
The Chuck White S.W.E.A.T. Camp – which is celebrating its 25th year of existence – is this weekend and the inaugural Geno Morgan Memorial G.E.N.I.U.S Basketball Tournament is next weekend.
White – a member of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame – had a legendary 45-year high school coaching career that saw him win 18 Alaska state championships and post 921 career victories at East, Eisenhower (Wash.) and West before walking away in 2010.
Wilson, who played for White from 1979 to 1983 and coached with him from 1988 to 1992, said paying tribute was his special way of saying thank you.
“I met Coach White as a 10-year-old boy who couldn’t afford the T-bird basketball camp. He sponsored me in so that he could reach me through the game of basketball,” Wilson said. “I have never forgotten what that meant to my life and there are so many others he did that for.”
The S.W.E.A.T. Camp over the years has given kids, many underprivileged and underserved, a free opportunity to interact with college coaches and players. Campers also get a free meal, T-shirt and prizes.
“Almost everybody who is anybody [in the game] has come through S.W.E.A.T. Camp and many others have come back to coach and or to donate to it,” Wilson said. “My mother, Dolores Waldron, ran this camp for 24 years. This is her first year not running the camp, which makes it bittersweet. But it’s time for the next generation of servant leaders to step up and lift these young hoop aspirations in the name of the greatest coach in Alaska history.”
The inaugural Geno Morgan Memorial G.E.N.I.U.S Basketball Tournament will feature nearly two dozen teams split into divisions for men and women, boys and girls. All proceeds from the tournament will go toward funding scholarships awarded by the Geno Morgan Foundation.
Morgan was an NAIA All-American at Alaska Pacific University in the late 1980s before turning to coaching. He coached high school in Alaska, Hawaii and Utah and college at the University of Alaska Anchorage and Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
At East Anchorage, he led the T-birds to the Class 4A state championship in 2000– the school’s 15th title but first without Chuck White. At Wasatch Academy in Utah he won three state championships, with the first in 2011 being the school’s first hoops title in the school’s 136-year history.
Morgan passed away in 2005. He was 49.
“Geno Morgan is not celebrated for dying. We honor him for living,” Wilson said. “He donated many, many hours throughout the state of Alaska, representing many organizations, paying it forward. The Geno Morgan Foundation is awarding scholarships in his name because organizers knew the best way to honor his life was by representing his spirit of empowering others when he was alive.”