Posted 8/19/15 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
It was on Watford City’s outdoor basketball courts that Cavin Andersen, a 1968 graduate of Watford City High School, honed his basketball skills and perfected a soft jump shot that would make him one of North Dakota’s premiere collegiate and amateur basketball players.
It was on those city outdoor basketball courts, which featured less-than-level metal backboards, chain link nets and that were often covered with loose rocks kicked up from the gravel roads, that Andersen would dream of one day playing college basketball and maybe, just maybe, making it into the ranks of professional basketball.
And today, young Watford City area basketball players, who like Andersen, are following their dreams of becoming a great basketball player, have a new court, Cavin’s Court, at the Sunshine Park to practice on.
“Cavin grew up in Watford City and quite literally lived on the city’s outdoor basketball courts,” states Andersen’s younger sister, Candace Cox. “In the 1960s, there weren’t any indoor facilities in Watford City for young basketball players. So he spent all of his time developing his skills at the outdoor courts.
In memory of her brother, who died in 2014, Cox donated a new hoop and backboard, made improvements to the court, and installed a plaque in memory of her brother.
Following Andersen’s graduation from W.C.H.S., he went on to a stellar college career at Valley City State College.
During his four years as a Viking, Andersen, a 6’4” forward, started in every game, won the North Dakota College Athletic Conference and NAIA District scoring crowns in his sophomore, junior and senior years, and set 14 school records, many of which still stand. He was also named an All-American twice.
Andersen, who was inducted into the Valley City State College Hall of Fame, scored a career 2,305 points and averaged 26.2 points a game as a Viking. At the time of his college graduation, the school’s records Andersen held included the individual season and career records in field goals attempted, field goals made, free throw shooting percentage, total points and scoring average.
“Cavin’s scoring numbers are absolutely amazing,” states Tom Suelzle, who played amateur basketball with Andersen for 20 years. “You have to remember that back when Cavin played, college teams only played 20 games a year and they didn’t have a three-point shot. Today, college teams play 30-plus games a season, so players have the chance to score more points, and now they have the three-point shot.”
Following his collegiate career, Andersen was drafted by the ABA Indiana Pacers and the NBA Chicago Bulls, and was later invited to a tryout with the Cleveland Cavaliers
After not making the professional ranks, Andersen returned to North Dakota in 1972 and moved to Bismarck where he began playing amateur basketball with the Arman Agency, as well as in Watford City.
“Cavin was one of the most respected basketball players in North Dakota,” states Suelzle. “He won numerous MVP titles at tournaments throughout North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota and Canada, and was inducted into the North Dakota Amateur Basketball Hall of Fame.”
According to Suelzle, Andersen was a dominating basketball player, who was unstoppable and could score at will.
“Players across the state will tell you he was the best basketball player in North Dakota,” states Suelzle.
Even up until his death, Andersen could still be found shooting hoops at Watford City’s outdoor courts.
“He lived and breathed basketball,” states Cox. “It is keeping his love of basketball alive, as well as to provide area youngsters with the opportunity to have a good outdoor court to practice on, that I made the improvements at the Sunshine Park court.”
While Andersen may no longer be draining his patented jump shot, if you listen hard enough you may still hear a basketball bouncing and the sound of the ball swishing through the net at Cavin’s Court.