High School Insider: Pair of Urbandale grads return to help J-Hawks basketball

High School Insider: Pair of Urbandale grads return to help J-Hawks basketball


High School Insider: Pair of Urbandale grads return to help J-Hawks basketball


Alicia Wright and Ethan Freeman hung up their Urbandale High School basketball jerseys in 2007. But now they’re back in the gym that gave them so many good times.
The alumni are coaching at their former school this season. Wright runs the girls’ junior varsity, and Freeman is a boys’ sophomore assistant. Both are varsity assistants, too.
Returning to the court where they once played brings back a rush of memories.
“There’s some jealousy that I can’t go out there and play,” Wright said.
Freeman, a former all-stater, went on to play at Truman State. He returned to the Des Moines area and has a job in finance.
He’s working under Brad Bjorkgren, who was his high school coach.
“I can relate to what these kids are going through,” Freeman said. “Hopefully I can give them the perspective of the small game of basketball, but in a bigger view.”
Wright played two seasons at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, winning back-to-back national championships. She transferred to Iowa, where she concentrated on academics and played for two intramural basketball champs.
She works at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames as a hospital social worker. The coaching job is a break from an occupation that can be stressful.
“It definitely winds me down,” Wright said.
Urbandale girls’ first-year coach Gary Birdwell called Wright about three weeks ago to tell her there was a coaching vacancy. She spent the following weekend earning her coaching certification.
“I jumped on the opportunity,” Wright said.
The return to basketball stirred Wright’s passions.
“(It’s a joy) just being able to work with high schoolers and being able to teach them the game I love,” Wright said. “Just being around the game every day.”
Freeman coached at Des Moines Christian last season under Todd Miller, his former AAU coach.
Freeman switched to Urbandale for this season. He can remember working with children who are now filling the J-Hawk jerseys.
“It’s fun to remember those kids and see how they’ve advanced from there,” Freeman said.
The Urbandale boys are off to a 6-1 start. The girls are 1-7.
Many of the school’s Central Iowa Metropolitan League rivals are the same as when Freeman and Wright played for the J-Hawks.
“It definitely seems familiar to play against teams like Johnston and Dowling,” Freeman said. “It brings back memories.”
Urbandale went to state Freeman’s senior year and took fourth.
Some fans may do a double take when they see the graduates on the bench this season.
“You see so many familiar faces in the stands,” Wright said.


Larry Lawrence is today remembered as one of the best high school athletes of his era. The Cedar Rapids Jefferson prep graduated in 1967 after earning Des Moines Sunday Register all-state honors in two sports.
Lawrence, who died at age 63 in Galveston, Texas, on Dec. 4, was a two-time all-state quarterback. He later started at Iowa and went on to an NFL career with Oakland and Tampa Bay.
He also was a basketball star, helping Jefferson win the 1967 Class 2-A state championship in a 72-71 overtime win over Ames.
Lawrence began his college career at Iowa. He was the quarterback in 1968 and 1969. In 1968, he threw for 1,307 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 10 more scores.
In 1969, Lawrence threw for 1,680 yards and 10 scores and gained more than 2,000 yards of total offense. He finished his college career at the University of Miami.


MAKING A SPLASH: Iowa City West freshman Mark McGlaughlin is ranked among the state’s top five performers in five of eight swimming events. McGlaughlin is ranked first in the 100- and 200-yard freestyle.
SO CLOSE: Adam Morse of West Des Moines Valley rolled a 299 game against Des Moines Roosevelt on Nov. 26 at Air Lanes. Though he didn’t get a 300, he did break the school record for the highest series score. He bowled a 542. The old mark was 515.
ROLLING ON: Dubuque Wahlert’s Kristina Hochrein, a senior, has bowled a state-leading game of 290 this season. She’s averaging 240.9 a game. That average leads the state by more than 20 pins.
ALL-AMERICANS: Solon’s Kelsey Cave and Grundy Center’s Heather Hook received honorable mention all-American volleyball honors from Under Armour.


More USA TODAY High School Sports