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75th Anniversary


January 16, 2013

Walter Berry wows fans with a dunk at the 1984 NJCAA Men's Basketball Championship. Photo courtesy of San Jacinto College (Texas).


In writing the January 75th Anniversary Feature Series, much of its foundation came from conversations with several individuals that currently help make the NJCAA’s Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament such a success. The NJCAA reached out to Jerry Ricksecker (current Tournament Chair), Joe O’Sullivan (current Tournament Director), Michael Johnson (author of The JUCO Classic), Jerry Kershaw (play-by-play voice of the tournament since 1964), Randy Stange (current Athletic Director at Hutchinson Community College as well as a former player and coach at HCC) and Steve Carpenter (current Sports Information Director at HCC) for their perspectives on ‘The Tournament’. Below are some highlights of those conversations, which are also featured in the January edition of NJCAA Review

The NJCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament has a special home. Can you put into words how the event is so special to the people and community of Hutchinson?

“Several years ago the American Legion Basketball Tournament Committee was considering the adoption of a logo for the championship event. The group easily narrowed down to one – ‘The Tournament.’ The reason is that throughout the years whenever locals mention or talk about the tournament, there is no question that they are referring to Hutchinson’s rendition of March Madness. The players and length of shorts have changed over the years, but it is still ‘The Tournament.’” – Jerry Ricksecker

“In Hutchinson, community college basketball is a major source of entertainment. I have been told by many coaches that have participated in the tournament that it is just the opposite in their communities. They can’t believe the number of fans that show up for their games while they compete in Hutchinson. The local fans here are knowledgeable about the game and respond accordingly during the tournament. Locals brag about the great players and coaches who have come through the tournament and went on to greater achievements. It is like they are a part of us.” – Joe O’Sullivan

“The tournament became a tradition for not only the people of Hutchinson but for enclaves in other communities such as Moberly (Mo.) and Burlington (Iowa). Though each tournament is different, fans can count on seeing familiar faces in the participants as well as the crowd. They also could count on being introduced to new faces and teams.” – Michael Johnson

“There is such a great volunteer base. The American Legion here in Hutchinson has done such a significant job of putting this tournament on for all these years. There is nothing in the country quite like it. These people have invested so much time and effort into it, which makes it so completely unique.” – Randy Stange

What is your fondest memory of ‘The Tournament’?

“My fondest memories of The Tournament are the times I attended from my 7th grade year through high school as part of the schools’ basketball teams. I loved the games, the atmosphere and became addicted to the event. Becoming a Team Host in 1977 was icing on the cake. The Tournament still encourages local youth groups, school teams, scout troops, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the like to attend free of charge.” – Jerry Ricksecker

“My top memory was when I was the team host for Midland (Texas) in 1982. Spud Webb garnered a great deal of pretournament publicity. He was only 5’ 6” and could dunk? The fans really wanted to see this. In the first game, no dunks and the suspense was building. Part way through the second game he got a steal, knocking the ball toward the Midland basket. He caught up to it as he crossed the center line and was all alone. The crowd was standing as he elevated and slammed it through. He didn’t disappoint and the Sports Arena erupted.” – Joe O’Sullivan

“The 1963 tournament was the reason I came up with the idea for my book – "The JUCO Classic." I remember sitting in the bleachers with the Burlington (Iowa) fans, cheering on Bobby Joe Hill and the Blackhawks. I was enamored with the exploits of Eugene Bogash who almost single handedly kept the Wilmington (N.C.) Seahawks afloat, scoring 182 points in six games. I was among those who chanted “Give it to Bogash!” before the MVP was announced. On top of that, Independence (Kan.) beat Moberly (Mo.) in overtime to give Kansas the championship. It still remains my favorite tournament of all time.” – Michael Johnson

“The 1984 title game when San Jacinto (Texas) defeated Independence (Kan.) 86-82 comes to mind. Independence had a comfortable lead only to see San Jac’s Walter Berry have one of the most outstanding individual performances in the history of the tournament, scoring 28 points (also 18 rebounds and six blocked shots) to lead San Jac to a comeback victory and the national championship.” – Jerry Kershaw

“Although this isn’t a direct memory, knowing that my father (Herb) played in this tournament twice (1960, ’61) is very special to me. As for a memory of mine, watching Nolan Richardson lead Western Texas to the national title in 1980 and going undefeated stands out.” – Randy Stange

“Gene Bess. What a gentleman. What a coach. What I like best about Bess is that he is still steering the ship. He still has the passion for the game and for Three Rivers (Mo.). You would think he would be slowing down now, but the last time Three Rivers played in the tournament (2012) I saw him work the officials like a young coach trying to prove something. I loved it.” – Steve Carpenter

Name Some of the Players that You Saw Play in the Tournament that You Still Talk About.

“Willie Murrell of Eastern Oklahoma, Walter Berry of San Jacinto (Texas), Spud Webb of Midland (Texas), Mitch Richmond of Moberly (Mo.) and Jim “Bad News” Barnes of Cameron (Okla.).” – Joe O’Sullivan

“There have been so many players in the tournament’s history that have had an impact. My two favorites are Gene Bogash and Spudd Webb. The most dominant player I ever saw in the tournament was Walter Berry, a true man among boys. I think the best pure shooter I ever saw was Folly Malone of Tyler (Texas). The two-time All-Tournament player was technically perfect in his shooting style, much like the legendary Bill Bradley. The best defensive player I recall was Paul Pressey of the undefeated 1980 national champion Western Texas Westerners. The later pro was placed at the top of the team’s 1-2-2 full-court press and, with his 6’6” wing span, was constantly stealing, tipping, or otherwise forcing the opponent into turnovers. The best rebounder I saw was Larry Knight for the 1977 Ellsworth (Iowa) team. The 6’7” forward was broad-shouldered with a solid frame and was always perfectly positioned for grabbing a board because, once he blocked you out, there was no way you could get around him.” – Michael Johnson

“Since watching my first tournament in 1960, I have watched several outstanding players. If I had to choose a few that stood out over the last 50 years, in no particular order, it would be Walter Berry of San Jacinto (Texas) 1984, Spud Webb of Midland (Texas) 1982, Paul Pressey of Western Texas 1980, Benny Clyde of Ellsworth (Iowa) 1971 and Bill Butler of Vincennes (Ind.) 1972.” – Jerry Kershaw

Shawn Marion with Vincennes (Ind.), Steve Francis with San Jacinto (Texas) and Allegany (Md.), Eric Martin with Sullivan (Ky.), Pete Mickeal with Indian Hills (Iowa) and Chris Weakley of Southern Union (Ala.).” – Steve Carpenter

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