March 8, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Swapping stories about the good old days and creating new friendships are on the weekend agenda for former University of Alabama basketball standout Derrick McKey.
"It's always good to see the guys and, for me, meeting guys who I've probably never met before, guys who were here way back in the day," said McKey, who played for the Crimson Tide from 1984 to 1987, earning All-America honors his final season. "I think it's good sometimes to meet those guys who were here before us, who kind of paved the way and made it just a little bit easier for us. Hopefully, we did the same for some of those guys who came behind us."
McKey is in Tuscaloosa this weekend to watch the Crimson Tide's Southeastern Conference tussle with Georgia on Saturday, which marks the conclusion of the 2012-13 regular season, and participate in a special celebration for the 100 years of basketball at Alabama. Festivities include a halftime ceremony, presented by Alabama Power and Legacy Credit Union, which is scheduled to include recognition for more than 100 former Tide players, coaches and staff. It won't be hard to spot someone who played a special part in the rich history of basketball at the Capstone.
The group of honorees include players and coaches from several different eras, including legendary former head coach C.M. Newton. Others expected to be in attendance include teammates Leon Marlaire and Jack Kubiszyn, who were part of the fabled `Rocket 8' teams in the 1950s, and Mike Nordholz, a three-time All-SEC selection, who played for the Tide from 1966 to 1968. The list also includes legendary All-America big men Wendell Hudson and Leon Douglas, standout forward Eddie Phillips and NBA veterans like McKey, Ennis Whatley, Buck Johnson and Jim Farmer. And that's just the start of what will be a special day at Coleman Coliseum.
A few of the former players, along with Newton, met with media members on Friday afternoon. Whatley was asked if he could throw together an alumni team that could challenge this year's Tide team, which is trying to position itself for a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Whatley smiled when he heard the question.
"I don't know if we could beat them, they're quick and fast," said Whatley, who turned 50 on his most recent birthday. "For a quarter, I know we could give them a little knowledge. Watching Trevor (Lacey) and all the guys, they got a lot of good talent. I remember hearing Michael Jordan say on his 50th birthday, `I think that time has passed a little bit.'"
What hasn't gone away, however, is the memories of some very special times in Tuscaloosa for all the former players and coaches in town to celebrate a special anniversary. Newton said some of his most cherished memories during his time in Tuscaloosa included bringing Hudson in as the first black scholarship athlete at the university and winning three consecutive SEC regular season championships from 1973 to 1976. Whatley said he'll never forget beating Kentucky in the 1982 SEC Tournament Championship Game at Rupp Arena and an emotional victory top-ranked UCLA just two days after Coach Paul `Bear' Bryant's death.
Those are just a few memories that will be shared this weekend but the conversation won't solely be about what happened on the basketball court.
"I think it will be a mixture," Johnson said. "We won't forget the days we played and that's going to come up. I think it will be more about life outside of basketball, although we will talk about the current season and what's coming up. I'm sure we'll talk about where we go from here and how we can help. I know a number of the guys I talk to are willing to help as much as they can."
Less than 700 tickets remain for Saturday's season finale. Fans can purchase tickets by logging onto Rolltide.com/tickets. Every fan in attendance will receive a one-of-a-kind 100 years of Alabama basketball commermorative poster.