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Pearl Jammer trades bass for basketball this weekend


Rock musician Jeff Ament will return to his hometown of Big Sandy this weekend to play in a high school alumni basketball game.

Ament, a former standout point guard for Big Sandy High, and his sister Stephanie, a former star at Northern Montana College, will both be in town for the event, their father said today.

Ament, lead bassist for the rock band Pearl Jam, studied art at the University of Montana before launching a successful career as a musician.

"I think his music got him a little farther than his basketball," said Big Sandy boys basketball coach Roy Lackner. "But he's played a lot, and gotten to play with some of the pros. He's probably improved a little bit."

Ament was featured on MTV's "Jam Sessions," which matches professional athletes and celebrities on the basketball court.

His father, who now lives in Couer D'Alene, Idaho, confirmed this morning that Ament plans to play in the alumni game on Saturday.

"He's not going (to Big Sandy) to be Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam," George Ament said. "He's going to be Jeff Ament. He just wants to be himself and have a good time."

Lackner said he is interested to see how much Ament's game has improved.

"Jeff, when he was in high school, he had no left hand. He called me up and said he has a left hand now, so we'll see," Lackner said.

The Big Sandy boys and girls basketball teams will square off against their older counterparts Saturday afternoon. Lackner said he organized the contests after having difficulty scheduling non-conference games for the high school teams.

"We had two open dates that we couldn't fill. We lost Dodson a couple years ago, and then we lost Sunburst. We had two openings on the schedule and needed some nonconference games. We thought it would be fun to get some of the old players to come back for an alumni game," Lackner said.

Although the outcome of the contests will be included in the teams' win-loss records, the alumni games are intended to be fun, and are free to the public, he said.

The varsity girls will take on the alumni women at 4:15 p.m., followed by an all-alumni women's game at 6. The high school boys squad will hit the floor at 8 p.m., squaring off against a tough men's alumni team.

Lackner has coached basketball in Big Sandy for more than 25 years. Bringing some of the old crew together is guaranteed to be a good time, he said, recalling a basketball trip that demonstrated Ament's love for rock music.

"I remember going to Simms one year, and they were banging their heads listening to this music, and by the time we got there, a couple guys' necks were so sore they could barely move," he said.


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