It was a great two years at MIT

Jan. 13—I left off in Part I with a look at the culture of junior college basketball, which I was a part of for two years. It has been 55 years since I lived that life and two of the best years of my life were spent playing JUCO basketball at Murray State College, or as we jokingly called it-MIT (Murray In Tish). I wouldn't trade those two years for anything.

We had a diversity of players from Brooklyn, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Texas, California, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Other than basketball we had little in common, however, we did share a special type of

It seemed that money was always tight, but there wasn't much to spend it on anyway. None of the black guys owned a car and a couple of times they filled my car with gas and I drove them to dances in the black part of Ardmore. I'd be the only person there that wasn't black. I never had any trouble, because my Homies had my back. After all, I was their brother...and their ride. Also, it was an opportunity to plagiarize some new dance moves- the 'twist' had gone out with the nickel candy bar.

Home games at MSC were great! We always had a packed house, and there were always about 20 cowboys (Aggies) who sat about 10 feet behind the visitor's bench and just abused the visiting team and coach. They'd probably go to jail now.

As alluded to in Part I, my first year we flew to Monterrey, Mexico, and played Monterrey Tech and the University of Nuevo León. It was a special trip because most of us had never flown. We flew the antiquated Trans Texas Airlines, which wasn't exactly a smooth ride, but what would you expect? After all, we were a JUCO where you stretched the dollar.

We had a good time in Monterrey. Taking joy rides in the 'beat up' taxis was a gas where the first taxi that honked at an intersection had the right of way and sped up while I closed my eyes. We ate in the school cafeteria and the food was awful, but then what do you expect? After all, we were a JUCO Brotherhood and none of us was born with a silver spoon in our mouth. Coach probably negotiated our meals for a quarter each.

Whenever we went shopping, I was 'The Man' because I'd taken two years of Spanish and the Brothers wanted me to negotiate a price for them. It was simple. I'd say, "como mucho" (how much), and quoted a price I'd say, "demasiado" (too much). The vendor would always come down on the price. My Brothers thought I was brilliant. I was glad to help a cost, of course.

The teams we played weren't good and Coach Robbins stressed that we practice good sportsmanship. Well, that didn't last long. Late in our first game, we were just pummeling Nuevo León when one of their guards and I ended up fighting for a loose ball on the floor. I got punched, so I punched back. We were separated and sent to our bench.

Of course, the Mexican students sitting behind and above us booed me. There was one chair separated from the rest, and that's where Coach told me to sit. I felt like a man on an island when the Mexican students began laughing at me. There was a dead ball on the other end when suddenly I got hit by a cup on the back of my head, and with laughter, more cups and candy ensued.

Suddenly, a light came on and I became that little boy growing up in Hugo all over again, and I started picking up debris and throwing it back at them. It was me against the mob, and they stopped the game to sweep debris off the floor. All the Brothers on our team loved it-Coach Robbins didn't. Teammate Frank Henry from Hackensack, New Jersey said it was like being back at home in Jersey.

By the way, I got the loose ball. Coach Overton in Hugo would have been proud of me.

I'll try to wind up on Part II, even though it seems I could write endlessly. You may ask how Murray was able to get so many good players back in the '60s. The answer-Gene Robbins. Coach was an amazing recruiter. His mere presence was compelling, and he could have sold refrigerators to Eskimos.

In the '60's there existed a small bus terminal in Tishomingo. Coach would meet and recruit players from

distant places, but they didn't visit. He would sign a player and as a rule, a player would arrive a couple of days late at the small Tishomingo bus station and call Coach to come pick them up. The player was usually shocked to see how small and rural Murray was, but it was too late to try to go someplace else. Gotcha. Most of these guys had never even seen a cow. Occasionally, you'd see a mad player, because he thought he'd been duped.

Recruiting was the name of the game. Still is, and there was nobody better than Coach Robbins. You better not take a mule to the Kentucky Derby. If Coach had existed back in the 1800's I could see him with a traveling wagon and selling snake oil for rheumatism.

It's time to turn the page to JUCO Basketball Part III.