We first brought you the news of University of Washington center Joe Wolfinger’s pending transfer all the way back in February. So don’t say we’ve never provided you any gifts, Wolf haters.
That said, if you’re like me, and found the seven-footer mildly entertaining over the past four years, the official confirmation of his departure earlier this week came as relatively sad news in the world of local sports. No, Wolf wasn’t the greatest basketball player to ever grace the court, but at least he was fun to watch play, no matter your definition of fun.
A gangly bundle of awkwardly packaged limbs, Wolfinger arrived on Montlake in 2005 as the walking definition of odd. He possessed the height of a bona fide center, but the corresponding physique of a Red Vine. His size screamed “inside game,” but his mind told him “shooting guard.” We expected hook shots, post moves, and dunks; we got three-pointers….and, uh, that’s about it.
There are very few comparisons we can make between Wolfinger’s on-court play and anything else in life, but I have one.
Remember in Little League baseball how kids were divided up by talent level, rather than age? Sometimes you’d have the eight-year-old wunderkind in a league of sixth graders, for instance, while other times you’d have the reverse effect, where an uncoordinated 12-year-old, say, would be playing in a league of fourth graders because he simply wasn’t very athletic. That reverse effect is what came to mind when I first saw Wolf play.
Here was a man who stood much taller than the other nine players around him, but seemed to move slower, ooze even, as he made his way up and down court. He didn’t jump very high, and always seemed out of place when set against the backdrop of the fast-paced game. This was Joe Wolfinger in a nutshell, the old man of Little League baseball, the guy who hadn’t quite figured out how to correctly manipulate his body to do the things he wanted it to.
Ultimately, Joe Wolfinger was blessed with two things that didn’t necessarily go together: height, and an ability to shoot the outside shot. He had a little bit of Dirk Nowitzki in him, and you have to appreciate that. How many seven-footers do you know that can knock down a trey at any given moment?
Years from now, Wolf will be remembered as half-myth, half-man when discussed in the annals of Husky history. Some will say he never existed, while others will insist that he did. His legend will grow, and the story will change. He was no less than eight-feet tall, they’ll say, with the ability to dunk from half court.
The only thing we know for sure right now is that he will be gone very shortly. For some of you that’s good news, for others bad. Let’s just not forget what Joe Wolfinger meant to the little big guy in all of us.