It never occurred to Keith Nuest to count up exactly how many consecutive Kouts High School boys basketball games he’d attended. A few years ago, someone asked him.
“I went home and added it up,” Nuest said. “It was 930-something. I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I can get to 1,000.’ “
Nuest, 72, is the Iron Horse of Indiana high school basketball. Over a 47-year period, he hasn’t missed a Kouts’ boys basketball game — at home or on the road. On Feb. 7, Nuest reached his goal, attending his 1,000th consecutive Kouts’ game, a 33-30 win over Knox.
Nuest, a 1961 Kouts graduate, doesn’t just watch the games. The first two years of the streak, he kept statistics and submitted box scores and a game stories to the local paper. The third year, he was asked to keep the scorebook “since I was keeping stats anyway.” He’s kept that position for 45 years.
Nuest, who retired from his job at National Steel in Portage in 2003 after 39 years, admits there were at least three or four occasions where he was sick and probably should have stayed home and asked for a replacement. But he came to the game, anyway, and survived.
“It’s a commitment that I made and I like to honor my commitments,” said Nuest, who also keeps record books for several area schools and writes a weekly column for the Times of Northwest Indiana. “There were a few times I didn’t feel well at all but I thought, ‘I can either sit at home and be sick or go to the game.’ Going to the game always sounded better.”
Making Nuest’s feat even more amazing is that he hasn’t missed any Kouts’ girls’ games over a 37-year period. Kouts, a small Class A school in Porter County, has a policy against having boys and girls games on the same night, which has allowed Nuest to keep both streaks intact.
Nuest’s wife of 40 years, Lana, doesn’t particularly like big crowds or basketball.
“She lets me do my thing with basketball and we enjoy the things we do together,” he said.
He’s also kept the stats and scorebook the baseball team for 45 years, though he’s missed a few games here and there for a golf vacation. He’s also coached the summer baseball team for 40 years.
“I do this because I love doing it and I know the athletes and coaching staff appreciate it and depend on it,” he said. “It’s a way that I can give something back to my school and my community.”
Though the games tend to run together over time, there are a few that stand out. In 1974, in the Porter County championship, Kouts led Hebron by two points with three seconds left and was at the free-throw line.
“All we had to do was hit the rim and they would have had to fire from three-quarter court,” he said. “We shot an airball. So Hebron gets the ball out of bounds, they throw it to midcourt, and they hit a half-court shot to send it to overtime. Kouts eventually went on to lose in overtime.”
Kouts made it to the Class A semistate in 2001. Nuest had a golf trip planned to Myrtle Beach the weekend of the state finals. He didn’t have to cancel. Kouts lost to Blue River Valley.
Nuest said he’ll continue to add to the streak as long as “somebody doesn’t tap me on the shoulder.” He treasures a friendship with Kouts coach Marty Gaff, who is in his 31st season.
“I’ll take it one year at a time, one game at a time,” he said.
That philosophy has served him well for 47 years.
•Washington will honor its former coach Jerry Oliver on Saturday night to honor the 50th anniversary of its 1965 state championship team. Oliver, 84, coached the 1965 team led by IndyStar Mr. Basketball Billy Keller, Ralph Taylor and Eddie Bopp. Washington is hosting Providence Christo Rey at 7:30 p.m. and will have two youth teams play prior to the game, designating it, “Past, Present and Future Night.” Washington will also honor its 1969 state championship team.
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.