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Band of CU Buffs from 1969 AAU squad remain friends decades later

May 30—Much like the spring of 2024, when both Colorado basketball teams won multiple games at the NCAA Tournament, 1969 was a banner year for basketball in Boulder.

While the University of Colorado remained five years away from fielding a varsity women's basketball program, it was a banner season for CU basketball under coach Sox Walseth. Behind newcomer Cliff Meely, the Big Eight Player of the Year, the Buffaloes won the conference championship and won 20 games for the first time in program history, finishing 21-7.

It wasn't the only impressive hoops run put together by Buffs that spring.

In a snapshot from another era, the late spring of 1969 brought together a band of CU athletics brothers from different sports — basketball and football, specifically — who decided to feed their competitive fire by playing together on an AAU team. In a different form of March Madness, not only did those former Buffs advance all the way to the championship round in Georgia, but 55 years later the bulk of the young men on that roster remain a who's who of prominent names in CU athletics history.

Most of them remain good friends, as well.

"We started playing in the (Boulder) city league, and that's kind of how we got going," said John Meadows, a former CU football player. "The next thing you know, we're going to watch Sox Walseth's team play and one those teams were (Mike) Frink and Bob Bauers. Then we decided, why don't we try to qualify for these AAU tournaments? It just all sort of built."

Meadows was one of several former football players on that hoops roster, a group that includes CU athletics Hall of Famer Bobby Anderson and Mike Pruett. The CU men's basketball program was well-represented as well, with then-recent alums Frink, Bauers, Mike Rebich and Chuck Williams.

The participation by Anderson and Williams is boggling by modern standards. In 2024, football players with pro aspirations routinely opt out of bowl games. And former Buffs basketball players with top-tier overseas contracts typically are unable to compete for the alumni squad Team Colorado in the annual summer, $1 million winner-take-all The Basketball Tournament.

Anderson played for that AAU team despite being months away from his senior season at Folsom Field. Williams finished playing hoops for CU in 1968, but endured a gap year he didn't ask for when a tryout with Philadelphia in the summer of '68 didn't pay dividends. He returned to Boulder to earn a Master's degree, and used the experience with the AAU squad as a springboard back into competition for an eight-year pro career that began in 1970 with Pittsburgh of the ABA.

"I kept playing ball. Then (Meadows) and some of the guys that I had played with, we got together and started playing some games together," Williams said. "That's how we ended up playing in the AAU."

Comprised of athletic young men, most of whom were recently removed from their collegiate playing days, the group first got together in large part to fill a competitive outlet. The team won two games in New Mexico to advance to nationals, then topped a team featuring players from Kansas and Kansas State to then take on the hosts, the Macon Movers.

Reportedly more than a few hometown whistles went against the Boulder bunch in an elimination loss. But the experience went beyond the scoreboard. Many team members remained active in the Boulder community. Phil Huff became a prep teacher and coach. Jim Kean served as the assistant city manager for Boulder.

One of the one-time AAU players laughed that "sometimes stories from the road should stay on the road." But those stories nonetheless still get repeated with a wink and a smile as, 55 years later, the bulk of those players remain closely knit.

"I think we're all still really good friends," Bauers said. "Part of it is some of us played together in college. John's one of my best friends. I talk to Chuck all the time. We've all stayed friends, which is kind of cool."