Karl Wustrack (Wilson, 1962)

Karl WustrackKarl Wustrack

Karl Wustrack (Wilson, 1962)

November 2023 ~

Karl Wustrack (Wilson, 1962) may not be a pyschiatrist but he’s for sure a real doctor, one who enjoyed a long career as a plastic surgeon before retiring about 10 years ago. So, when Wustrack says, “I may be a little obsessive,” you can feel comfortable taking his word for it.

That said, if you’re the type who takes comfort only under a cozy patchwork of proof points, grab a cup of cocoa, pull up a sofa and read on.

Wustrack was inducted into the PIL Hall of Fame in 2012 for his achievements as a cross country and basketball athlete. But that was a long time ago, so talking about it can wait a little longer too. On this autumn day in 2023, he first wants to talk about something a little timelier, specifically the Masters Basketball Championship he competed in this year.

He’s been playing in masters tournaments regularly since he was 45. He’s now 79. You read that right – still playing competitive basketball at 79. (For comparison, there are younger men out there who got tired just typing that sentence.)

Wustrack, who now lives in San Francisco, plays for the longtime and well-known Portland hoops team started by Pudgy Hunt and sponsored by his East Bank Saloon, a name today’s team still calls itself even though the establishment closed in 2014. “It’s got good name recognition,” Wustrack says.

Past East Bank team members have included former Trail Blazers such as Leroy Ellis and Jim Barnett. Today’s include Dave Kafoury (Cleveland ‘62), Wustrack’s former running competitor, longtime pal and a fellow PIL Hall of Famer.

Over the years, East Bank has won more masters championships than Wustrack is prepared to count, and he has earned multiple MVP and All-Tournament Team awards, certainly enough honors to make the average 79-year-old consider retiring to his woodworking. But Wustrack? Not so much.

“It’s just been kind of a thing we (he and Kafoury) keep doing every year,” he says.

Well, that explains everything.

But for those on the sofa still struggling to understand the genetic predispositions, environmental factors and/or just plain personal motives to lead to obsessive behavior, maybe a few more details?

“It’s been a great opportunity to travel all around the world,” Wustrack continues. “I’ve been to Brazil, Prague, Croatia, Puerto Rico and have gotten to know a lot of international players we keep seeing year after year.”

OK, an obsession over international travel is understandable. The work required to stay in basketball shape year after year after year all the way up to age 79? Again. Not so much.

“Dave and I both came to the realization years ago that, in order to stay in shape, we had to play year-round,” Wustrack explains. “In the past, we’d take summers off. But now to avoid injuries, we just keep doing it year-round. Whepickup

He says that regimen is part of the obsessive deal, but as a physician he’s also sure to agree there are worse obsessions to have than spending so much time, in medical terms, “on the go.”

Wustrack grew up off Sunset Boulevard in Hillsdale, in a home that offered him a bird’s eye view of the construction of the new Wilson High School, which would be his home away from home for four years after he left Robert Gray Elementary School. “I was in the third or fourth class of Wilson students,” he recalls.

His dad had run track in college, and Wustrack followed in his footsteps, joining the cross-country team at Wilson, earning three letters, winning the PIL championship as a freshman and taking second as a senior. He earned another two letters in basketball and, as a senior, the 6’ 3” forward led the PIL in scoring, and was named 1st Team All-PIL and 2nd Team All-State.

“I liked running but I really loved basketball,” he says, before telling a story that indicates that, even years later, that’s how he still prioritizes the activities. “About 15 years ago, I was scheduled for a total hip replacement,” says Wustrack, who completed “three or four” marathons while in his 30s. “I met with the surgeon beforehand and he asked me what I liked to do. I said, ‘I run, and I play basketball.’ He said, ‘Well, you probably shouldn’t that after this.’ After I told him I’d give up running, but not basketball, he said, ‘OK, but I’m going to take five years off your new hip warranty.”

Wustrack earned a scholarship to Stanford but for academics, not sports, though he did still earn a spot on the Cardinal basketball team, even if it was mostly on the bench. “I didn’t play much,” he says. “I did enjoy eating steaks and the other good stuff athletes got, though.”

After Stanford came medical school at Yale, where he quickly joined various city leagues or found pick-up games.

“I spent a lot of time at the main college gym where I got picked up by kind of an outlaw league that included (former NFLer) Calvin Hill and Brian Dowling.”

If Dowling’s name doesn’t ring a bell, he was the former Yale quarterback who inspired the character “B.D.” in his classmate Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic strip.

Once he’d earned his medical degree, Wustrack moved back to Portland for his general surgery residency at OHSU before heading to Los Angeles for a plastic surgery fellowship. Despite the ridiculous hours required during his training, he always found time to find a basketball game.

“Everywhere I’ve gone I’ve been able to find a game,” he says, adding that in L.A. his Sunday pick-up games always involved “a lot of Hollywood types. Man, some of the crazy stuff they would do.”

Wustrack moved back to the Portland area after completing his fellowship and set up shop in West Linn, where he practiced until retiring. He and his wife, Diane, then moved to the Bay Area to be near their three daughters, one an orthopedic surgeon, one who works at YouTube and one who “is in some kind of biomedical, data mining thing. I still have no idea what she does,” he cracks.

He has four grandchildren, two of whom are basketball players.

Lest anyone think Wustrack’s obsessions are limited to playing basketball and staying in good enough shape to play basketball, he’s also chairman of the board of Alliance for Smiles, a non-profit organization whose mission is, in part, to “To forever improve and transform the lives of children and communities impacted by cleft lip and palate.”

In that capacity, he has traveled to countries all over the world, including Bangladesh, Ecuador and Guatemala, performing cleft-lip-and-palate-repair surgeries and training local providers to continuing providing long-term care after he and his team have moved on. He also leads fund-raising efforts for the organization.

In his “down time,” Wustrack says he usually retreats to his basement woodworking shop, where he has produced an array of beautiful, handcrafted pieces of furniture. It’s a hobby he first got interested in way back in shop class at Wilson.

“It’s another great thing to take up time with,” he says.

At this moment, he’s hustling overtime on a deadline project. One of his daughters is hosting the family for Thanksgiving and, instead of the traditional side dish, Wustrack is whipping up something a little different this year.

“I’m responsible for bringing the dinner table,” he says.

What, you were expecting green bean casserole from this guy?

Do you know Karl Wustrack? If you’d like to reconnect, he can be reached at kowustrack@gmail.com
instagram.com/wustrackfurniture

Photo Captions:

  • Karl and teammates captured gold at the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George UT, in October 2023
  • In addition to Karl (#14), East Bank Saloon players include fellow PIL Hall of Famer Dave Kafoury (#4)
  • Karl with interns during a mission trip to Bangladesh.
  • Karl and his wife, Diane, with daughters and family.

Photo Note: Click on a photo to see its caption


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