Conversation: Author, Janesville native Shawn Fury enjoying the NYC style

Author Shawn Fury, a Janesville native with Fulda roots, has made his love of basketball into a way of life

Shawn Fury poses with copies of his book, "Rise and Fire."
Shawn Fury poses with copies of his book, "Rise and Fire."
Photo courtesy Shawn Fury

Editor’s note: Shawn Fury is from Janesville, but he has vast Fulda roots and attended Worthington Community College, now Minnesota West. He began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Worthington Daily Globe some 30 years ago and has become a freelance writer and accomplished author, having written two books. He and his wife, Louise, live now in New York City, where we caught up with him recently for our latest Conversation With Scott.

Question: Where do you call home now, Shawn?

Answer: We live in upper Manhattan, actually on Broadway. So you could walk from our place all the way down toward Times Square and where the Trade Towers were. So it’s the main part of the city, but where we live is more residential. There’s a huge park just a couple minutes from our apartment. It’s a really nice neighborhood.

Q: I understand your wife is from South Africa. What does she do there in New York?

A: She’s from Cape Town. She’s been in New York even longer than I have. I moved here in 2004. My wife is a literary agent, selling books to publishers. The good thing about both of our jobs is we work from home a lot, even before Covid. So we travel quite a bit and I’ve been able to be back in Minnesota a lot to see my parents and go to South Africa to see her family. And still work while we’re there. It works out pretty well for us.


Scott Mansch
Scott Mansch

Q: I know you’ve written two books (‘Keeping the Faith: In the Trenches with College Football’s Worst Team’ and ‘Rise and Fire.’ The latter is about the origin and evolution of basketball’s jump shot). Are you working on another one these days?

A: I’d love to write another one, but it’s just coming up with an idea publishers will buy and pay money for. And then secondly an idea that I’d be super passionate about. My first book was like, I always wanted to write a book like every writer out there. And the second one was my dream book, being a basketball nut. I just loved doing the research and reporting … I wrote my first one when I was 29 and second one when I was 39. And now I’m 47, so maybe it will happen before I turn 50. We’ll see.

Q: Do you stay busy as a freelance writer?

A: Yes. I do a lot of stuff for college alumni magazines, stuff for different web sites and there’s a golf magazine I’ve written for. I also do a lot of copy editing for publications and web sites. I also help my wife a lot, for example with proposals of books to publishers. Writing is still what I love to do.

Q: Your father is from Fulda, correct?

A: Yes, that’s Pat. He’s the oldest in his family. Mike and Jerry are his younger brothers. (Mike is the former highly successful women’s basketball coach at Worthington CC and Jerry lives in Marshall where for many years he’s been a public-address announcer at Southwest Minnesota State University events.) Dad’s family lived on the farm outside of Kinbrae. My sister, Lisa, and her husband live on the old farm place. Dad went to Fulda High School and my Mom, Cees, is a Drealan from Fulda. They moved to Janesville right after they got married and they’ve been there ever since, still living in the same house where I grew up.

Q: So I’m sure when you were young you spent a lot of time in the Fulda area visiting your grandparents.

A: That’s right. About once or twice a month and holiday we were down there. When I was in 6th and 7th grade I went to Fulda’s basketball camp in the summer. So I got to know the Fulda kids. Southwest Minnesota was always a second home to me. It seemed like everyone in my family went to college in Worthington and I ended up going there, too. The whole area is almost home just as much as Janesville is.


Q: The great Fulda basketball tradition had to rub off on you a little bit then.

A: Totally. My Dad graduated in ‘65. I think he was a scrapper as a player. Then obviously Mike was an incredible player at Fulda High School. And their cousin, Phil, was a cousin and a good player. Phil’s younger brother, Kevin, was on Fulda’s ‘75 state tournament team. He was really good. Kevin’s nephew, Ray Winter, was a fantastic player at Fulda in the late ‘80s. Ray was really good at Normandale CC and Winona State, and now his son (Bradley) plays at Augsburg.

Q: I certainly know all about that 1975 team. They were fantastic. Arvid Kramer, Brad Holinka, Tommy Pittman, Kevin … A great, great team.

A: That’s right. And I grew up hearing stories about Mike as a player. My uncle Jerry was a fantastic all-around athlete, and Grandpa Fury was a big basketball fan. Baseball was his main sport, but he was actually on the very first basketball teams at the college in Worthington, way back in the day. I remember growing up going to hundreds of my Uncle Mike’s games at the college, driving in snowstorms to Rochester and Austin and many times to Worthington. (Laughs) We’re definitely a basketball family.

Q: You know, Shawn, there’s an infamous story about a Fury during one of those heated ‘Goat’ games between Slayton and Fulda. Where a Fulda Fury tore down a Wildcat banner during a game, much to the displeasure of our polite Slayton fans …

A: (laughs) My Dad was at the game! It was ‘66, the year after he graduated. He said it was an all-time flop by Phil, who then ‘accidentally’ took down (the banner). He said Slayton won on a last-second shot so you guys got the last laugh.

Q: That’s pretty good. Do you think Ray Winter’s family is related to my Winter friends from Slayton? Trevor (the former Minnesota Gopher standout), his brothers and their mother, Connie?

A: I think they’re related, but I’m not exactly sure how. They’re all really tall, I know that (laughs). Ray isn’t as tall as Trevor, but he’s tall!


Q: Tell me about your high school basketball career. Graduated from Janesville in ‘93? Almost made it to the state tournament?

A: Yes. We were Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton. In the sub-section semifinals we got beat by Maple River. It was still just two classes then. It was a two-point game late, but we lost by six and Maple River went on to win the Class A state championship. It was a tough loss for us. Here I am 30 years later still talking about it (laughs). But if you played any sports you can kind of identify with those moments. As time goes on I’ve become friends with Maple River’s best player, Chad Ostermann, who’s now their head coach. We still talk about that game quite a bit. And I’ve become friends with Maple River’s former coach, Dave Walker, who was an assistant at the Worthington college for a while. It’s all good memories, but I still wish we would have won (laughs).

Q: Did Maple River play anyone from our area in the state tournament?

A: They actually beat Storden-Jeffers in the tournament. Storden had Nate Boots (LeBoutillier), another former Daily Glober, and Jeff Taylor. They were star players.

Q: So Nate worked at the Globe, too? His father, Steve, was once a friend of mine about 100 years ago at Southwest State.

A: Nate’s an awesome, awesome guy. He lives in Mankato. He replaced me at the Daily Globe when I left in 2000 to go to Fargo (The Fargo Forum). He was a great athlete and a great writer and fantastic musician. He’s really making a name for himself as a musician in Mankato.

Q: Did you enjoy your basketball career at Worthington Community College?

A: I had an awesome time there. I met a lot of great guys. Juhl Erickson of Westbrook was a great point guard on their ‘91 team and now his son, Henry, is a fantastic player at Windom. I’m still friends with Juhl. Back then, I was probably the kid who came from farthest away to play at Worthington. We had mostly southwest Minnesota kids. My coach was Mike Augustine, and I’m still close to him. He’s an incredible guy. My roommate, Aaron Wiltrout, was from Worthington. Brendan Nagel was another former Worthington Trojan and a fantastic player. There were guys from Sioux Valley-Round Lake on the team like Sean Kruger. Bobby Madsen from Heron Lake was probably our best player. Chad Rauk from Hills was there. Tim Gunderson of northwest Iowa was another fantastic player and great guy. It was a really competitive league and there were some really good teams. My sophomore year, and I’m pretty sure this is still true, we were the highest-scoring team in school history. But we fell a game short of making it to the Junior College state tournament. So another bitter loss (laughs) … It was a fantastic experience for me to be there. And then when I was going to school there I started working part-time at the Daily Globe.


Q: Did my good friend Doug Wolter hire you?

A: Yes. It gave me a little door into the journalism world. Then three days later after I graduated from St. John’s I got my first full-time job with the Globe. I was there from ‘97-2000. I loved it. I knew some of the reporters, obviously Doug and Roger Geertsema. Beth Rickers was there. Brian Korthals was a photographer. Bill Brower (late sports editor of the Globe) was there working part-time and would come in and take calls and do his bowling column. I had Dan Roos for a journalism instructor at the college. For someone who loved sports and loved writing it was fantastic fun.

Q: Those are all fine journalists who I also had the pleasure of knowing and working with. What was it like working for Doug back then?

A: He taught me a lot, especially about layout and design. I wasn’t the biggest fan of that part of the job and he taught me a lot. Plus he was a really good editor for me. At the time I probably complained a little bit about his editing (laughs) but he really helped me. You know, in southwest Minnesota we always had good teams. When I was there Jackson County Central had back-to-back state appearances in football, Adrian had back-to-back runner up finishes in football, volleyball was great … And there were all kinds of excellent teams from Worthington. Tresse Klumper’s great basketball team that was unbeaten going into the state tournament in ‘99, Ron Vorwald’s great boys basketball teams … The Red Rock Central girls of coach Gary Gillis, and Les Knutson’s teams at Heron Lake, the Fulda girls basketball teams … Tarry Boelter’s baseball teams in Slayton … You always had great athletes to write about. It was a really good job to have.

Q: Yes, I agree with you, Shawn. Anything else you want to say about working with Doug?

A: Doug never ever beat me in tennis, I want to point that out (laughs). We probably played over 100 matches. What’s great about Doug is, he was always very passionate about his job and he cared very, very deeply about the Worthington Globe product. And he really drove that home to me and made sure I was really dedicated to the job. I loved working for him and as the years have gone by I definitely appreciate him more and more. He gave me lessons that helped me for the rest of my career.

Q: Doug is a very, very good man.

A: When he came back (after working for a time in Mankato), it helped the paper a lot even though the industry had changed so much. It’s nice to have that institutional knowledge of the area. And you yourself, Scott, even though you were gone for a long time you still kind of understand the schools and the area and what makes people tick there. I was very fortunate to work for Doug and the Globe. It had a great reputation at the time and if I could contribute to that in some small way it was a real honor.


Q: I want to ask a little about ‘Rise and Fire.’ The jump shot book. I’ve researched it a little. Did you really talk to the famous Bobby Plump (the inspiration for heroic Jimmy Chitwood in the cinematic classic ‘Hoosiers’)?

A: Yes. He was definitely one of the most enjoyable interviews.

Q: Who else did you talk to?

Abagotte Opiew and Kaleb Knothe were selected to the boy's All-Conference White Division team for the Trojans. WHS senior Tarren Spartz was selected to the girls' All-Conference White Division team.
RCTC defeats Minnesota West 73-53 in NJCAA DIII women's basketball championship game.
The Trojans finish their boys basketball season with a 21-7 record, and graduate six seniors in Abagotte Opiew, Marenono Opiew, Charles Brands, Nasim Zeidi, Mikele Walu, and Omot Okony.

A: Rick Mount, Jerry West, Steve Alford and Jimmy Rayl. I was in Indiana quite a few weeks trying to talk to players. I’d seen stories that Mount was a quiet guy and had gotten so much attention as a teen-ager, being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and he had the reputation as a guy with a prickly personality. But I really wanted to meet him and I tried several times to get in touch with him without success. At the time I saw he was running a shooting camp in his hometown of Lebanon, so I thought I’d just show up there. He was in his 70s at the time, probably, and I saw him demonstrating his jump shot for kids. Just making 20-footer after 20-footer (laughs). So I watched him for a couple hours and after it was over I walked down and introduced myself, and he goes ‘Oh, you’re that writer who keeps trying to get a hold of me.’ He was super gracious, just like Bobby Plump. He invited me to his house the next day and I sat in his living room for three or four hours and listened to him tell stories about his famous jumpers.

Q: Wow.

A: I tried and tried to get Larry Bird, who then was working for the Indiana Pacers. But after about nine months their PR guy sent me a note and said ‘Larry doesn’t talk for books.’ And literally the day I got that email I turned the TV on and Larry was being interviewed for NBA TV (laughs). I was like, OK. That’s the way it goes. I also did a lot of research going through old newspapers on guys from the ‘20s and ‘30s who were some of the first jump-shot shooters.

Q: Quite a project, Shawn.

A: From the interviews to the research, it was one of those things where everyday I thought it was the most fun I’d ever had working.


Q: Your books are still available, right Shawn?

A: Yep. Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Actually my first book, ‘Amazing Faith,’ in the last few months a Hollywood producer has been in touch with me about turning it into a movie or TV show. I had first been in touch with him about 18 years ago when the book first came out. So you never know.

Q: It’s a pleasure to speak with you. But I have to ask you, who had the best jump shot in the Fury family?

A: It’s just got to be Mike. I believe in high school he averaged over 25 points a game, and that was before the 3-pointer.

Q: All the best to you, Shawn.

A: Thanks very much for reaching out to me, Scott.

(Scott Mansch can be reached at

Scott Mansch, who in a crowded Viking tavern has been known to say “Go Pack Go” at times in complete disregard for his health, can be reached at
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