CARBONDALE, Ill. - Saluki Athletics honored its All-Century team on Friday night at SIU Arena, welcoming back many of the all-time greats in a festive evening of reflection on 100 years of Men's Basketball at Southern Illinois University.
Director of Athletics Mario Moccia noted that when Southern's basketball program first began in 1913, head coach William McAndrew "was hired with a gentleman's agreement that he wouldn't be expected to win." That first season included a "thrilling" 11-7 victory over SEMO. Since that time, SIU has won 1,450 games, captured National Championships in 1946 and 1967, and after joining the University Division in 1968, advanced to nine NCAA Tournaments, including two Sweet 16s, while winning nine conference titles.
We asked some of the All-Century team members what it meant to be selected to the team and their fondest memories of Saluki Basketball.
"It's extremely special, I was honored to be selected along with the rest of the guys, but to have my name with some of the guys I grew up hearing all kinds of stories about is definitely an honor. Growing up in Mt. Vernon you hear about all those guys, Walt Frazier, Mike Glenn, the guys from Centralia like Garrett and Shipley. As I got older I saw the guys in the '90's play. I was acting like I was those guys in my driveway, so to get to be on a team with them now is an honor and a treat. There's a lot of great memories. You go through your mind and there's a lot of lessons you learn, even some of the losses stood out just because of what it did for you as a person. But probably my fondest memory was walking off the court for the last time. We beat a ranked team in Creighton, it was a championship game, if we won we at least shared a title with them. The crowd stormed the court, it was Coach (Bruce) Weber's 100th win, so there was a lot going on on Senior Night. The last time I walked off that court I was a winner, it was a championship, and the crowd was jumping up and down, so it was pretty special."
"It means a lot, especially coming from a small town. Coming out of high school, getting picked to come to SIU, finding out who went to school here, the quality players, that was amazing. I just enjoyed every bit of it. Probably the three MVC Tournament wins to get to the NCAA were the most special. I think we would have had a shot at four but I rolled my ankle and I think somebody else rolled their ankle, so we ended up going to the NIT my freshman year."
"It's a tremendous feeling. It's a great, great honor. It's something that you realize that not many people had that opportunity. As a coach I'm a very lucky individual. I had really good talent. You can see I have seven on the All-Century Team. So it's a great honor. The first year I was here, we only won eight games, but the Wichita State game, we're down 11 points with 71 seconds left in the game and we scored on six-straight possessions. That just doesn't happen. But I guess my fondest memory was the three-peat team. It took a lot for us to win three. You can get hot and win a tournament, but to win in three-straight years, it was something. Especially the last one when we beat Tulsa, we did a great job."
"It's a huge accomplishment, I'm very thankful. It shows that hard work pays off. I'm just humbled to be a part of it. Probably the Sweet 16 run was my favorite memory. Putting a lot of hard work in during the season and offseason in the weight room, on the track, and in practice. To see that Sweet 16 run was a great feeling."
"After this many years have passed, this brings back a lot of memories. I think when you're surrounded by a lot of guys you played with, and me specifically, I broadcast a lot of the games after I was done playing, so I really know a lot of the guys younger than me, so it's very thrilling. One hundred years, that's a lot of players, and there's been a lot of success here over the years. You look at some of the names that didn't make it and you say `Wow, those are good players,' so it really stands out more because of the players that didn't make it. You know how good they were so you realize the elite company you're with. The fondest memory was probably my junior year, we finally broke through. We won the conference championship right here on the home court. The program was really down when I got here, but by that third year we turned it around. We won the conference in front of our home fans. It was probably the first sellout in probably a decade. So you feel that sense of justification that you chose the right school, that the things you've done up to this point have finally paid off. I just remember that feeling of jubilation winning that, and it's hard to suppress."
"It's a blessing. I feel very honored to be a part of the tradition of the Salukis and to be selected as one of the top players here. A lot of hard work, a lot of perseverance, and a lot of luck involved. I think the year we won the NIT, and also the opportunity to play with Walt Frazier was a blessing."
"I'm very excited about it, I'm very humbled by it. I'm quite gracious to the people of SIU, also to the people of Southern Illinois, the fans that supported me when I was a player, supported me as a broadcaster here, and obviously they supported me by voting for me. I'm very, very appreciative of that. I have a love affair, I guess, with Southern Illinois University. As a player, being in the Hall of Fame, and now being selected as one of the 25 best players, I'm quite humbled by it. It's an honor that I'm going to share with my teammates this weekend and with my family. I have quite a few of my teammates that I played with that are coming back for the ballgame tomorrow. I'm excited about it and quite humbled by it. There's been some very, very good basketball players at Southern Illinois University, and to be selected as one of the top 25 in the past 100 years, I'm quite excited about it. When I think about basketball, I think about the coaches. I think about Jack Hartman, I think about the late Paul Lambert. I think about some games, I think about my teammates. I recall the last game that Coach Hartman coached at SIU while I was a player. It was the game we played against Marquette in the Arena in front of a sellout crowd. We didn't win, but the game went down to the wire and I was matched up against a great college player and pro in Dean Meminger from Marquette. We had a good ballgame, I remember that just like it was yesterday. We knocked off Georgia Tech in the Arena. It was a game that was on national television. At that time there weren't SIU basketball games on television. We knocked off Georgia Tech and a good friend of mine from Benton, Illinois, Rich Yunkus, was on the Georgia Tech team and was an All-American and was just a tremendous player. Everyone from Southern Illinois was at that ballgame. It was a sellout crowd. It was a 20-point win for us. We were conference champs when I was a junior under Paul Lambert. We had some great wins over Wisconsin and Arkansas and some great matchups against Evansville. Evansville at that time was just tremendous. They had two guys who played professionally. But some of my fondest memories were the games when I was matched up against Doug Collins and Illinois State. We all know the history of Doug Collins. He was a guy who had 29 or 30 points every night out, one of the best players in college basketball as a senior. He had a tremendous pro career and as a coach in the NBA and now one of the best college analysts and NBA analysts there is. I'll never forget when we ran out of the tunnel onto the floor and the applause people gave. I think still to this day as a broadcaster here there's still adrenaline. There's a rush before that opening tip and it's the same one I used to have as a player. But most of all I'm just very honored and I've been blessed from the standpoint of having success with basketball."
"It's a great honor whenever you consider being amongst 25 of the best athletes in 100 years. There's a lot of athletes that have come through here so you can't take for granted being selected to that team. For me it's playing in front of my hometown. I'm from Carbondale, so playing in front of the home fans, it's almost like I just came across town from CCHS here in Carbondale. For me, every moment here was enjoyable just for that reason."
"It's a great recognition. To be All-Century in anything is pretty special, and with the names we have here, it's just a special honor. There's a lot of special memories. Obviously 2007, going to the Sweet 16, some of those games we had and the crowds we had, it was just some special times. I'm kind of reaping the benefits of everybody else in this room. I wanted to win and that's why I came here. I wanted to go somewhere that NCAA Touranments are expected, not hoped for. I was Coach Lowery's first recruit. He gave me the ball from Day One and it was my team. The greatest compliment I could give a coach I give to Coach Lowery. You form a team around your head coach's personality. We played like he personified himself -- gritty, hard-nosed, blue collar. We didn't believe anyone was better than us, Kansas, Missouri State, anyone. What he imposed on us was we didn't have to be the prettiest team, but we played the hardest, harder than any team in the country."
"If you look at the contributions of coaches Lynn Holder and Harry Gallatin, more than wins and losses, it was about how they integrated the program, under the direction of President (Delyte) Morris, to see that everyone had an opportunity at Southern Illinois. Gallatin was the first coach to start looking for players from the South. The success we enjoyed and celebrate tonight was jump-started by Coach Holder and Harry Gallatin. When the South opened up, a lot of African-American players found Carbondale a place to continue their education. When you wear the maroon and white, always think about the people that came before you."
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