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Tom Hulsman a star in own right

One day last week, Journal photographer Roberto Rosales stopped by the sports desk to tell us he’d spotted Jim Hulsman, the legendary Albuquerque High School basketball coach, out in our lobby.

Having not seen coach Hulsman in quite a long time, I went out to say hello. There he was, sitting with his wife, Mary Lois.

I fully intended to ask what brought them to the Journal, but Jim and I immediately began reminiscing and I never got there.

Then, on Sunday, I happened to spot an obituary for 83-year-old Thomas A. Hulsman — Jim’s younger brother. Tom was a fine athlete in his own right, the obituary stated, having played baseball and basketball at Highland for another New Mexico coaching legend, the late Mickey Miller.

Tuesday afternoon, I called Jim Hulsman — I hadn’t covered high school basketball on a regular basis since 1980, yet I still knew his number by heart — to express my condolences.

And, of course, to reminisce a little more.

“Yeah, (Tom) was pretty good,” Jim said. “His junior year, (Highland) won the state (baseball) championship. That would have been Tommy McDonald’s senior year.”

Before I called on Wednesday, I’d made a trip through the Journal archives to learn a bit more about his brother.

I found a 1950 group photo of participants in an Albuquerque youth basketball league. Young Tom Hulsman sat in the front row. Jim, who would have been 19 or 20 at the time, stood in the back row, listed as his little brother’s coach.

“My gosh, 1950. I was coaching a team, the Albuquerque Merchants, in the Junior B League,” Jim Hulsman recalled. “Jody Villa — remember Jody? — we played Jody’s team, the Seventh Street Mustangs in the junior championship that year, and Jody was the coach. And we won.”

Years later, Villa would be the football coach at Albuquerque High while Hulsman was the boys basketball coach and athletic director.

In the May 8, 1954 Journal, it was reported that Tom Hulsman went 3-for-4, including a booming triple, in leading Highland to a 13-0 victory over Belen.

Jim Hulsman was a 1949 graduate of Albuquerque High. Highland opened its doors that fall, and his brother became a Hornet.

“I believe the boundary was right by Yale (Boulevard),” he said. “If you lived (east) of Yale you went to Highland, on the other side of Yale, Albuquerque High.”

Tom Hulsman’s athletic career didn’t end with his graduation from Highland. He scored 26 points in a city-league basketball game in 1957, hit a home run out of Tingley Field in a 1958 semipro baseball game.

Like his brother, Tom Hulsman served in the military, then returned home to attend UNM. He worked for the city of Albuquerque in the Building Inspection Department. Later, he worked in a similar capacity in Artesia before eventually moving to Pflugerville, Texas.

“His passion was golf,” his obituary states. “Up to six months before his death he was still playing.”

He and his wife, the former Anita Archer, were married for 46 years. They had one daughter, Jennifer.

As for Jim Hulsman, he’s a bit frail — at age 88, he’s entitled — but the mind that drew up the plays that won 660 games and seven state titles for the Bulldogs remains sharp, 16 years after his retirement.

Of his youth in Albuquerque sports, shared with his brother and so many others, he said, “It was a lot of fun.

“We had a lot of fun growing up.”

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