To the Adamczak clan, basketball is just a way of life

MOOSE LAKE - Most kids these days learn to play basketball in a gymnasium, perhaps a recreational center or maybe even on their driveway hoop. Ryan and Maddy Adamczak played in a barn. Growing up, the pair of close Moose Lake cousins would shoot ...

Adamczak family
Basketball - and participating in competitive sports - runs in the Adamczak family. Cousins Ryan and Maddy Adamczak are both seniors at Moose Lake High School, and Maddy's dad, Joe, is the assistant coach for the Moose Lake-Willow River girls basketball team. Dan Saletel/Pine Journal

MOOSE LAKE - Most kids these days learn to play basketball in a gymnasium, perhaps a recreational center or maybe even on their driveway hoop.

Ryan and Maddy Adamczak played in a barn.

Growing up, the pair of close Moose Lake cousins would shoot hoops from just after breakfast until dinnertime, as they learned everything from a backdoor cut on the old, dirty, wooden floor, to a jump shot on the rickety, aged rim.

Both Ryan and Maddy, now seniors at Moose Lake High School, remember those days fondly. Living close by, heading to one another's family barn was almost a daily ritual. According to the pair, it's where they learned to love their favorite sport.

"It all started in the barn," said Maddy with a smile.


But playing hoops just didn't start with Maddy and Ryan, however. They got it from their basketball-loving family. Maddy's father, Joe, and Ryan's dad, Jeff, grew up together in a family of 12 brothers and sisters. Joe vividly remembered his days playing sports on their Moose Lake farm.

"More than half of us played sports," Joe said of his family's impressive sports history, "and that's all we did. All of the guys and all of the girls would just play. We played everything you could think of. And kids from all over town would come and play. We did it all."

Whether it was basketball, baseball, kickball, football, hockey or wiffleball, Joe said playing sports with his family was fun. To this day, when the Adamczaks all come together, sports and competition are everything. Even cribbage, cards and Catch Phrase are competitive games.

"It's either at my place or Jeff's and it's just a battle," Joe said, laughing. "There are a lot of us, but from ages five to 50, if you can run or kick a ball, you're playing. Yeah, there are arguments and kids are crying most of the time, but it's competitive and all in good fun for us."

For Ryan and Maddy, they couldn't be more blessed.

"It's just been a great experience," Ryan said. "My family has given me the opportunity to be competitive and teach me how to play. It's really just a lot of fun."

"For me, it sports and school," said Maddy, who learned everything basketball from her dad, Joe, the current Rebels girls junior varsity coach. "Sports are such a big thing in my life. It's just been indescribable. Growing up in this family, that's what you do."

It's basketball though, that is first in their hearts.


Maddy, a three-sport athlete who also plays softball and volleyball, has been on the Rebels' varsity team since her freshman year. This winter, Maddy has averaged roughly 16 points, 10 rebounds and five steals per night on her way to a Polar League All-Conference Team honorable mention.

Statistics aside, her coach knows she's been a leader for a team that has had some struggles.

"Maddy is a great kid and it's fun to watch her play," said Moose Lake-Willow River girls coach Andrew Miller about his 1,000-point scorer - just the eighth-ever in school history. "She's really learned how to be a leader for us. She's helped bring along a lot of the younger girls and has given them a lot of


Neil Dickenson, the Rebels' boys coach, said the same about Ryan, who also plays baseball.

"He's usually the first one in the gym shooting and the last one to leave," he said of his defensive point guard, who averages about nine points, six rebounds and three assists per night for the state-ranked Rebels. "He's one of our senior captains and I don't think he's ever missed a practice in my time here. He handles himself well. You can really tell he definitely loves playing the game."

Both Ryan and Maddy's entire family grew up playing basketball. Although they have siblings younger than them playing hoops, their most decorated relative is their aunt, Annie.

During her senior year at Moose Lake in 1982, Annie was named Minnesota's Ms. Basketball, as she led her volleyball, basketball and softball teams to an unheard of 81-0 record and all three state titles. Known as the Triple Crown, Joe doesn't think it's ever been done in the United States.


"She was unbelievable," said Joe of his younger sister Annie, who has Moose Lake's all-time girls basketball scoring mark at 1,535. "She was an Academic All-American at the University of Nebraska and she was even in Sports Illustrated. She has quite the shrine, let me tell you."

When asked if he'd ever beat her one-on-one growing up as kids, Joe answered quickly.

"I'd kick her," he laughed with his daughter and nephew. "I grew up playing her and teaching her the game. And that's what I wanted to do with all of these kids. These guys know what a back door cut is and an infield fly. They understand the game because they grew up with it. There aren't many of us left still, and I don't know if it's coming to an end, but it sure has been fun."

Ryan and Maddy agreed, knowing that sports will never leave their lives. To them, sports are life.

"It's been a great place to be," Ryan said. "I've learned a lot."

"Ryan and I have been playing since we could walk," added Maddy. "Everywhere we go, there's a hoop. We've grown up in a sports atmosphere. It's always been that way."

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