Jon Heimbigner’s jump shot doesn’t fall with the consistency it once did and his quick first step has dwindled to almost average.
He used to average 20 points per game, but that has shrunk to six.
But at 48 years old, Heimbigner is completing his 21st year of rec basketball as a player/coach with the same intensity he showed with his first team in 1975.
“I’ve seen my role change to where I’m playing good defense and setting picks to get the better shooters open,” Heimbigner said.
And he still plays in the BBB Division in the Spokane County leagues, the second most competitive division behind A, which Heimbigner says “consists of all the college guys.”
Heimbigner’s first team was sponsored by his employer, Rainier Bank. It went on to win the city league championship with a 9-1 record.
The following 13 years in the city league, his teams collected five more first-place finishes, won seven tournaments and twice placed at state - third in 1987 and fourth in 1988.
After taking the 1989 season off, Heimbigner organized a new team, Maria’s Pizza, and moved to the county league.
“It used to be the city had 100 teams and the county had only a few,” Heimbigner said. “Now it’s just the opposite. The county has 120 teams and the city doesn’t have very many.”
In the six years since Heimbigner’s teams have returned, they have won four league titles. Overall, his teams are 190-79 (71 percent) with an overall league record of 127-54 (70 percent).
Most of that success has to do with the players around whom Heimbigner has surrounded himself. His current team includes, among others, University boys coach Jay Humphrey, Lewis and Clark boys coach Glenn Williams, Deer Park boys coach Ben Widman and Deer Park girls coach Doug Watson, who once scored 50 points in a high school game.
Humphrey’s brother, Keith, is the leading scorer, averaging nearly 30 points a game, but four others are usually in double figures.
Every player is over 30 years old with the exception of Keith Humphrey, 29, and Heimbigner’s son, Jeremy, 21, who fills in.
“It’s kind of unusual for a team as old as us to play at such a high level,” Heimbigner said. “We beat a lot of teams because we pride ourselves in teamwork.”
This year, Heimbigner’s Papermill Printing team finished league with a 6-2 record, good for a second-place finish. But don’t expect Heimbigner’s farewell tour anytime soon.
“I’m going to keep playing as long as I can get up and down the court,” he said.
Heimbigner keeps himself in shape by walking 3 miles a day and working out three times a week on a circuit at the fitness center at Spokane Falls Community College. He’s in perfect shape, packing 180 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame, only 5 pounds more than he weighed when he graduated from high school.
But basketball is not the only thing that keeps Heimbigner going. He is the president and manager of the Prime Cut volleyball team that features some of the area’s top high school players.
Heimbigner started the team three years ago when his daughter, JoEne, was a freshman at Shadle Park.
“(JoEne) had played club ball for a while, but we wanted to start our own team,” Heimbigner said.
Since then, the team has compiled a record of 144-47 and finished 19th out of 272 teams at the 1994 National Junior Invitational Championships, the best any U-16 or U-18 Spokane volleyball team has placed.
In addition, Heimbigner has been the player/ coach of a rec softball team for 20 years, has been chairman of the Inland Northwest Hall of Fame for 15 years, is a member of the steering committee for the State B basketball tournament, and also a member of the Greater Spokane Sports Association, where he is chairman of the annual sports awards banquet.
How does he find time to do all this? Heimbigner quit his job as vice president/manager of Security Pacific Bank in 1993 and began his own business, Inland Northwest Communications, which sells long distance phone time.
“I like doing all these things because they’re sports related,” he said. “I like participating and being part of a team.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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