Many agreed Nate Huffman would be in the Lakeview Athletic Hall of Fame eventually – it would just be a matter of time.
But the problem was, there wasn’t much time left.
Last year about this time, Huffman’s friends and former Lakeview teammates realized the bigger-than-life former Spartan basketball player only had weeks, if not days, to live as he was losing his battle with bladder cancer.
There was no more time to debate. If Huffman was to be inducted into the Lakeview Hall of Fame, it was time to do it.
And to the credit of the Lakeview Hall of Fame committee, that’s exactly what happened.
Huffman officially will be inducted posthumously to the Lakeview Hall of Fame during festivities surrounding this week’s high school football game on Friday. But, thanks to the speedy, above-and-beyond efforts by the Lakeview committee, Huffman was actually notified and presented his Hall of Fame plaque in the days before he died last October.
“When I heard he was as sick as he was I was being told he had seven or nine months so we all thought we had a little bit more time,” said former Lakeview teammate Mike Oursler. “So I went over to see him and he looked so bad I was thinking if he had seven or nine weeks or days, I’d be shocked. So right then, I got with the Hall of Fame committee and said we had to do something. We had to vote on Nate and make this happen a lot sooner than we had planned.”
The fact that Huffman lived to see the day he was inducted into the Lakeview Hall of Fame during a private moment at his home is appreciated mostly by those that he left behind.
“I remember they wanted to make sure Nate knew what was happening and that he was going into the Hall of Fame. I know they hurried up the process, they were able to make up the award and show it to Nate before he passed,” said his brother Travis Huffman, who will say a few words on behalf of the family during ceremonies on Friday. “I think the family is really appreciative of that. I knew it would happen someday, he earned it. But we were really proud that it happened. We have always been proud of all of his accomplishments and we were glad to see that he was going to be acknowledged that way.”
Oursler, who is on the Hall of Fame committee, said there had been a general thought Huffman would be inducted eventually sometime in the next few years. Recently, when the group decided to only induct five former athletes per year, it created a waiting list for some.
Huffman’s career credentials speak for themselves. Huffman, from the Class of 1992, played on Lakeview’s most successful basketball team ever, which went 22-2 as he had 60 blocked shots his senior season. It was after high school that the 7-foot-1 center really blossomed. Huffman was a standout at Lansing Community College and earned a scholarship to play at Central Michigan University, where he was an All-Mid-American Conference basketball player, finishing in the top 10 of many of that school’s single-season records. From there he became an international basketball star and was named the ‘Best Player in Europe’ in 2000 and 2001 while playing professionally in Israel for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Late in his career he reached his dream goal of signing with an NBA team, joining the Toronto Raptors before injuries cut short his pro career.
Travis Huffman added one big regret was that their father didn’t live to see this week’s induction ceremony as he passed away in the last year also.
“Dad passed about six weeks ago. He would’ve liked to see this,” Travis Huffman said. “But it will be a nice moment for everyone and it will give us a chance to reminisce again about his playing days.”
What Huffman meant to people all over the world was known to many while he lived, but became obvious to many more in the days after his death. An outpouring of love and remembrances came forth in the local Battle Creek community following his death and that was matched, and maybe surpassed, by those in Israel who saw him as a national hero, even if he was born a half-a-world away.
In the past year, Huffman also was inducted into the Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv Hall of Fame. His widow Michelle Huffman and his young son Christian were invited to Israel to be a part of the ceremony.
All involved, here and abroad, wanted the world to know what kind of impact Huffman had on many. And the Lakeview Hall of Fame committee was able to do the right thing to let him and his family know in the hours before his death exactly where he stood among the Spartan greats. Oursler will hope to get that point across as he will help induct Huffman during ceremonies on Friday. He said he has plans to bring to the football game at Spartan Stadium the giant Huffman flag Maccabi Tel Aviv had made up when they were honoring their former star themselves.
“I was just glad we were able to get it done and the committee did the right thing in pushing it through,” Oursler said. “In the end, it was more for the family than anything else. Nate probably wasn’t too concerned at that point with being in.
“But it was something the family could appreciate, talk about in his last days. And I have to think it made Nate smile as his wife told me later he was able to see his son carrying around that Hall of Fame trophy and having fun with it before Nate died.”
Contact Bill Broderick (269) 966-0678 or email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter @billbroderick