Dan Rottenberg: A Basketball Diary

by Dan Rottenberg on January 20, 2021

Alumni Retrospective: A Basketball Diary

When I reflect on my time as a camper at Caribou in the early 80’s, I am flooded with memories: building a tree-house with my bunkmates, learning how to box from Bill Lerman and Mike “Rosedog” Rosovsky, witnessing Charlie Fradin and Doc Slobodkin transform a mundane all-camp activity into something magical. But my fondest memory would have to be helping win the first land sports trophy in Camp Caribou history.

To understand the true meaning of that moment, you have to go back.  This was before Caribou became the CMCL powerhouse that it is today.  Back then, the only trophies occupying the cases in the Lodge were for riflery and archery.  Under the tutelage of men like Jeff “Quas” Hellman at riflery, and Wally Penrod at archery, there were plenty of those.  At that time, Caribou gave tremendous efforts on the baseball diamond and the soccer fields, but always seemed to come up short, particularly against our main rival, Manitou.

Perhaps the biggest difference between those times and now was in basketball.  My first two summers, we played our games in a small gym next to the old archery range.  The court was about three-quarters of regulation size and the rafters were so low that you had to shoot at an angle to make a basket.  Then, one summer, I returned to camp to find a brand new, outdoor basketball court, with glass backboards, and a red and blue Caribou logo blazing in the center.  It was on!  We had a new head basketball coach that summer, Lars Johansson, who started to mold us into a stronger team.  It also didn’t hurt that I had recruited some friends from Newton, all talented basketball players, to attend Caribou.  Guys like Steve Sprich, Dan Africk, and Greg Smith. The icing on the cake came my super senior year, when Bill and Lars brought in Jeremy Kilby, a local player from Winslow, Maine, to attend camp.  At six foot four, Jeremy towered over the rest of us.  And he could dunk!

I barely remember the actual games from the 1987 Camp Caribou Invitational Basketball Tournament.  I know we beat Camp Laurel, who didn’t really stand a chance against our size.  We had three guys over six feet on our 15-and-under team, and with Kilby and Sprich banging the boards, I was able to move to point guard. There are some black-and-white photos from those games that Bill has shared with me.  I can see our poofy 1980’s haircuts, goofy grins, and blue and white Adidas Decade sneakers. But it’s hard to describe the pride that we felt carrying that first basketball trophy off the court.  All these years later, I can still hear the wall cheer that we received from our campmates later that day.