28 and counting: Meet college basketball's oldest player

(Courtesy of Rayford Albright)
(Courtesy of Rayford Albright)

For years, Rayford Albright dreaded being asked how his basketball career was going.

He was embarrassed to admit that it had sputtered to an inglorious halt.

Albright was once well known in Memphis high school basketball circles for his flashy handle and his knack for piling up points, but the slippery 5-foot-9 guard endured a turbulent transition to the college level. He bounced between four schools in four years, his senior season at Martin Methodist College ending prematurely in 2019 when he was ruled academically ineligible.

With no college degree and no offers to play pro basketball, Albright returned home to Memphis and crashed on his mom’s couch. He took a job as a valet parking attendant at the historic Peabody Hotel while also trying to scrounge up some extra money training kids from his neighborhood or serving as an assistant coach at his former high school.

“That was a dark period for me,” Albright told Yahoo Sports. “My life always revolved around basketball, so without basketball it was very tough. I was embarrassed to go out in public. People would ask me about basketball and I had no answers.”

The turning point for Albright came about a year ago when he reconnected with former University of Memphis star Andre Turner. Turner, who coached both of Albright’s younger brothers in high school, had since accepted the head coaching job at Division II Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee.

When they spoke, Turner remembers Albright admitting that he felt “kinda lost.” By then, Albright was the father of a 1-year-old boy. He wanted to be able to provide more financial support to the mother of his son, but he didn’t have a plan for how to do that.

Turner asked Albright if he had any college eligibility remaining. Albright said he might have one more year, but he wasn’t sure. His junior year, Albright didn’t enroll at Talladega College until the start of the spring semester. Then his academic issues halted his senior season at Martin Methodist in December.

It was then that Turner began mulling an audacious idea to help Albright find his path in life. The Lane College coach started exploring the possibility of offering a full ride to a 28-year-old valet parking attendant who hadn’t played competitive basketball in three-plus years.

“My deal right off the bat was we were going to do everything by the book,” Turner told Yahoo Sports. “We had to go everywhere he’d been and get transcripts from each one of those places. There were no promises. It was more like let’s see where this takes us.”

Where it has taken Albright is into virtually uncharted territory. Albright, born July 3, 1995, appears to be college basketball’s oldest active player.

The oldest player to suit up in a Division I game this season is BYU’s Spencer Johnson, a 26-year-old licensed realtor. Fairfield’s Alexis Yetna is 27 days older than Johnson, but he hasn’t logged a minute yet this season due to injury.

Albright is more than two full years older than either Johnson or Yetna. He appears to be more than a full year older than any Division II, Division III or NAIA college basketball player. A study last month by Medium’s Liam Hanley did not uncover any other non-Division I players born before August 7, 1996.

Asked what it’s like to be nearly a decade older than some of his Lane College teammates, Albright downplayed the age gap and described himself as a “big brother” to some of the younger players. Albright lives off campus in an apartment with some fellow upperclassmen. The only time he feels old, he says, is when his muscles ache or stiffen after a grueling practice or pickup game.

“When I used to get done playing basketball, I wanted to go do it again,” Albright said. “Now if I get a good run in, it’s over for the day.”

When Albright graduated from Manassas High School in June 2014, LeBron James still played for the Miami Heat, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were newly married, and Bill Cosby was still a beloved comedian. In those days, Albright was an undersized but dynamic all-state guard accustomed to hoisting shots early and often and putting his high school team on his back.

“He was like a one-man band in high school,” Turner recalled. “That’s what his coach needed him to be. If Rayford didn’t do his thing, they were probably going to get beat pretty bad.”

Albright intended to continue his basketball career at junior college power Walters State, but a moment of immaturity derailed those plans. He said he was caught shoplifting at a Walmart the summer before his freshman year, a decision he now greatly regrets.

“I think I was in the best situation I was ever going to be in,” Albright said. “Walters State gets lots of exposure. They have Division I coaches in the gym while they’re practicing. If you play well there, you’re going to go Division I.”

After taking a year off from school and basketball, Albright resumed his career playing a similar style to what he had in high school. He was more bucket getter than facilitator, putting up 19.5 points per game at Dyersburg State Community College as a freshman and averaging double digits each collegiate season thereafter.

Those gunslinging habits have been hard to break as a 28-year-old asked to play a different role for Lane College. Turner has other players who can score, players who aren’t months removed from a three-year hiatus from basketball. The third-year coach envisions Albright not as a primary option but as a change-of-pace off the bench.

“He’s used to scoring and shooting,” Turner said. “That’s what he has been doing. Now at this level, what I need is something different.

“His quickness and speed is still there. He can cause problems for our opponents. But it’s about Ray buying into that role with the team as opposed to getting into the game and shooting, shooting, shooting.”

Of course, whether Albright earns playing time or not the rest of the season isn’t his primary barometer for success. This year is all about completing his bachelor’s degree, setting himself up for life after basketball and being a good example for his son.

“I never had a Plan B,” Albright said. “That’s where I’ve always gone wrong.”

Four years ago, Albright was embarrassed that his playing days didn’t end on his terms. Now, the oldest player in college basketball is enjoying his last dance and looking forward to pursuing a career in coaching when it’s over.


6. Pac-12

Early-season surprise: Washington

Early-season disappointment: USC, UCLA

Projected top three teams: 1. Arizona 2. Colorado 3. Utah

Projected NCAA bids: 4-5

Projected player of the year: KJ Simpson, Colorado

Must-see early matchup: Utah at Arizona, Saturday

5. ACC

Early-season surprise: Clemson

Early-season disappointment: Florida State

Projected top three teams: 1. Duke 2. North Carolina 3. Miami

Projected NCAA bids: 4-5

Projected player of the year: Kyle Filipowski, Duke

Must-see early matchup: North Carolina at Clemson, Saturday

4. Big Ten

Early-season surprise: Nebraska

Early-season disappointment: Michigan

Projected top three teams: 1. Purdue 2. Michigan State 3. Illinois

Projected NCAA bids: 6-8

Projected player of the year: Zach Edey, Purdue

Must-see early matchup: Purdue at Indiana, Jan. 16

3. Big East

Early-season surprise: Butler

Early-season disappointment: DePaul, Creighton

Projected top three teams: 1. Marquette 2. UConn 3. Villanova

Projected NCAA bids: 5-6

Projected player of the year: Tyler Kolek, Marquette

Must-see early matchup: UConn at Villanova, Jan. 20

2. SEC

Early-season surprise: Ole Miss

Early-season disappointment: Vanderbilt

Projected top three teams: 1. Tennessee 2. Kentucky 3. Auburn

Projected NCAA bids: 8-9

Projected player of the year: Mark Sears, Alabama

Must-see early matchup: Alabama at Tennessee, Jan. 20

1. Big 12

Early-season surprise: BYU

Early-season disappointment: West Virginia

Projected top three teams: 1. Kansas 2. Houston 3. Baylor

Projected NCAA bids: 8-9

Projected player of the year: Hunter Dickinson, Kansas

Must-see early matchup: BYU at Baylor, Tuesday

MATCHUPS NOT TO MISS (all times Eastern)

  • North Carolina at Clemson, Saturday, 12 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • Kentucky at Florida, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN)

  • Providence at Creighton, Saturday 2 p.m. (FS1)

  • Ole Miss at Tennessee, Saturday, 6 p.m. (SECN)

  • Colorado State at Utah State, Saturday, 9 p.m. (MWN)


Immediately after Notre Dame’s embarrassing 65-45 home loss to the Citadel in late December, first-year coach Micah Shrewsberry apologized to Irish fans who paid for tickets. Shrewsberry then unloaded on his team, promising to help facilitate transfers for players who didn’t compete harder and give more effort.

Message delivered. Notre Dame is 2-0 since Shrewsberry’s scathing rant went viral. The Irish clobbered Virginia 76-54 last Saturday.


Glance at the top five in all the major computer metrics, and you might be surprised to find BYU alongside some of the giants of the sport. The Cougars, projected 13th in the Big 12 preseason poll two months ago, are No. 2 in the NCAA’s NET, No. 3 on KenPom, No. 4 per Evan Miya and No. 5 per Bart Torvik.

Is BYU actually top-five good? As Will Warren noted a few days ago, the resume is a little thin. The Cougars (12-1) have played four games against decent competition, a home win over Mountain West favorite San Diego State, neutral-court victories over NC State and Arizona State and a road loss at in-state rival Utah.

Still, discount BYU at your own risk. Piggybacking on some research by Warren, I examined how the past 40 teams* ranked in the KenPom top-four on New Year’s Day have performed the rest of the season.

Of those 40 teams, 39 secured at least a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. The lone exception was Marcus Smart-led 2013-14 Oklahoma State, which started 12-1 but settled for a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament after finishing sub-.500 in Big 12 play.

*My research excluded the 2019-20 season when there was no NCAA tournament.


Believe it or not, the Detroit Pistons are not the Motor City’s only basketball team to endure an endless losing streak this season. Detroit Mercy is still trying to secure its first victory nearly two full months into the new college basketball season.

Mike Davis’ Titans are 0-16 overall and 0-5 in Horizon League play after Thursday’s 69-51 loss to Green Bay. Most of those losses have been one-sided blowouts. Only three have come by single digits.

What are the chances that Detroit Mercy matches the Pistons’ 28-game losing streak? Slim, according to Ken Pomeroy’s projections. KenPom gives Detroit Mercy a 1.2% chance of going winless this season. The Titans are projected to finish with a 4-27 record.