Hansch Led Rockets With Defense, Desire
At 5’ 0”, Jim Hansch was the shortest player ever to take the court at the B state tournament. When the Rockets made an appearance at the big dance during his sophomore season, the press dubbed him “The Mighty Mite.”
By his senior year, the 1956 grad had soared to 5’ 6”. He was elected team captain and named to the all-district team, despite averaging only six points per game.
“I wasn’t much of a scorer,” Hansch said. “My strength was defense. I tried to pick my man up at half court and put on as much pressure as I could.”
That year, Jim set the school record for steals in a season with 104. Today, his total is third on the all-time list.
“Jim was the kind of kid who was all over the court,” said former Rocket coach Floyd LeBaron. “He wasn’t especially fast, but he had incredibly quick hands.” LeBaron said Hansch had an uncanny ability to anticipate. “If somebody floated or telegraphed a pass, Jim would have it.”
Jim grew up three miles outside of Castle Rock on a farm at the end of Krall Road, off Spirit Lake Highway. “We had a hoop in the barn that we used when I was growing up,” he said. “We didn’t have a real net, so we used a smelt net.”
Hansch’s parents didn’t mind that he turned out for basketball when he was in junior high – as long as he could get home on his own. “I usually walked or hitchhiked,” he said. “Most of the time, somebody would pick me up.”
The Rockets took second at district and made it to the state tournament Jim’s sophomore year. They earned a spot in the semi-finals before losing their next two and finishing 6th.
As a junior, Jim started on a senior-dominated team that had high expectations coming off the ’54 campaign. The team featured 6’ 5 Hal Ness and 6’ 4” Rankin Kaut.
Toutle Lake had a strong team led by 6’ 10” Gary Goble. “Hal Ness held Goble to four points when we played at home, and we won that one,” Hansch said. “But they beat us at Toutle.”
Injuries and illness hurt the tall and talented Rockets down the stretch. At district, they played five games in five days, going 3-2 and falling in a winner-to-state/loser-out battle on the final day.
Nobody expected much from the Rockets during Jim’s senior year. Hansch was the lone veteran on a small, inexperienced squad that made the most of what it had. CR beat Kalama on the Chinooks’ home floor for the first time since 1946.
The Cowlitz County Advocate provided this comment when CR defeated Cathlamet in the last home game of Jim’s senior year. “Captain Jim Hansch displayed some beautiful ball handling and drove the Mules wild with his defense.”
The Rockets went on to upset highly-ranked Stevenson, 48-46, to earn a district berth. Against the Bulldogs, Hansch tossed in a 35-footer to close the first quarter, then finished the third period with a bomb from just inside the half-court line.
Hansch had a great district tourney. The Rocks whipped league champion Ridgefield and finished 3-2 but were again eliminated on the final day, one game short of the state tournament.
Jim appreciates all the support he received when he was playing, especially from his aunts and uncles who attended the games. “We always had a good crowd,” Hansch recalls. “The gym was almost always full, even when we played on Tuesdays.”
He also has good things to say about his coach, Floyd LeBaron. “Coach was strict. He was a real competitor and a real inspiration to me. I still think the world of him.”