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Missing the college hoops of yesteryear

It ain't like it used to be
It ain't like it used to be

It ain’t like it used to be

Pardon me for not being all over this tournament. The Shockers aren’t that shocking and as nice as a story as FGCU may be, it’s all a bit lost on me. You see, I used to LOVE college basketball. My friends made fun of me. I was the guy consistently watching Long Beach St. on the back-end of a Super Tuesday triple-header. And I could name their starting five. One reason was that I’d watch the same group play for multiple consecutive seasons. You see that was part of the charm “back in the day.” I can’t help but yearn a bit for those times.

It’s really hit me recently. Sure, I’m 35 years old and my schtick on this blog is typically droning on about “the good old days,” when, in reality, those good ole days maybe weren’t so great…in most cases. College basketball is the exception. Maybe the kids of today share the same obsession I did? Perhaps they’re ready to put posters of their heroes on the wall (if such things were, of course, allowed to happen…which, of course, they’re not). But it can’t be as good as it was…it isn’t..and it won’t be. It can’t be. One only needs to travel back in time for a reminder. I did. And in doing so, I recalled just how glorious a game it was.

Back then, coaches were fixtures. Men were associated with programs and it FELT like they had been or would be there forever. But, most importantly, players played their college ball. Great, incredible prospects came to school and for multiple years…often with other great, incredible prospects. Future NBA stars, sharing the court together. IMAGINE IT. Getting coached up together. Getting better as a team together. I remembered it was good. I just needed a reminder of how good. So, I went back into my head and into my HS years.

Specifically, the years 1990 – 1995. A time when I was in junior and senior high school. Age 13-18. In many ways, at he apex of my sports fandom. It was a period where I was playing basketball for school, shooting hoops on the weekends. Going to every open gym in the neighborhood. Watching college ball at every possible opportunity. And why? Because it was so damn good. As I took a walk down memory lane, I recalled some of the great teams of that period that I watched in wonder. The internets helped me a bit too. Take a stroll with me and recall these legendary groups. Don’t know what you got, til it’s gone…

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
You can probably correlate my favorite pieces of licensed apparel from my youth with my all-time most beloved teams. My Runnin’ Rebs red, zip-up Starter (or was it Apex One) with the huge handlebar mustached Reb on the back ranked right up there. How could you not love towel-biting Tark’s bunch? A team that ran others off the floor and culminated their title run with a 30-point win over Dook. Stacey Augmon. Anderson Hunt. Larry Johnson. Greg Anthony. George Ackles. Four 1991 NBA draft picks. Yes, that’s right, kids. This group also came BACK together for another run. I mean, they even look like NBA guys in college. It was so phenomenal.

Two words. All you need. Changed everything. You know that whole apparel aligning with my affinity? Guess where my satiny, yellow, to-the-floor shorts with the navy blue “M” embroidered on each side sat on the list? Yup. Alone in stature and price (for serious, I think those things cost more than some of my suits). Another unforgettable team. All would stay together for at least two years before Webber departed, followed the next season by Rose and Howard and then, finally, Jackson and King who stuck around for four full years.

Arkansas Razorbacks
Sure, there were two distinct teams within this stretch, but I feel like Nolan Richardson and his 40 minutes of hell were just one long continuation of madness throughout my HS years. One beautiful ballet of chaos. Todd Day and Lee Mayberry. The Big Nasty, Corliss Williamson and and Darnell Robinson. Scotty Thurman. Corey Beck. It’s like they all played together as part of one glorious stretch.

The Big Nasty

The Big Nasty

Those were ICONIC teams.

Those were INCREDIBLE times for college basketball.

Man, do I miss it.

I miss Lethal Weapon Three.

I miss Mark Macon and Temple.

I miss the silky-smooth lefties. Give me O’Bannon. Rodney Rogers. Hell, bring on Stevie Thompson. Baby Jordan, anyone?

I miss it all. I want to go back. Sure, back to the high school days where things were simpler. But also when you knew who was coaching whom and you could bank on the nation’s best players being around for a few years. Back when you can get to know a team, a style, a group of kids.

I’ll take FGCU and the rest of March Madness. But don’t give me too hard a time if the whole college hoops scene has lost a bit of its luster for me. I was a child of the olden age. It was as good as it gets. And it will never, ever be the same. At least that’s how I’m going to remember it…don’t try to tell me differently.


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