Watching Steph Curry and his merry band of Golden State Warriors set new NBA records every time they take to the hardwood reminds me of how basketball shaped my career.
As noted in previous columns, the only reason that I became a Nevada resident is because Coach Jim Aken offered me a full-ride basketball scholarship at the University of Nevada. After that lackluster first season at the U, my next encounter with the roundball sport came about when I was on overseas duty in the U.S. Army in Pusan, Korea. Fortunately, our base was several miles outside the city at a location at the base of a mountain very similar to Peavine.
The base had been previously occupied by Japanese forces and featured small barracks with tiny sliding doors made of some sort of papyrus. Strangely enough, the base included a full-size gymnasium to which I was able to secure the key. I then recruited three towering guys that included my former Nevada roommate, George Vucanovich.
We had difficulty finding a fifth member of the squad until we ran across the late Ralph Lamb at the gym. Once we had solidified our squad, we took on a number of service teams from outlying posts. Since we had the only adequate gym south of Taegu, we were able to play almost every weeknight.
Since there was little else to do at our remote location, we decided to play 20-minute quarters which, in effect, gave us the physical advantage as well as a good workout. As it turned out, we were able to have an undefeated season and strove to score at least 200 points per game.
Returning to civilian life a bunch of us who had played high school ball in Florida formed a team to compete in the Fort Lauderdale summer city league.
We had unusual sponsors in the form of a mother and daughter duo who were avid high school basketball fans. Their last name was Ritchy and they were persons of considerable wealth. Consequently, we had the flashiest uniforms in the league. Also, were able to go undefeated and win because we had a center of enormous height in those days who was 6-foot-7” or 6-8. His name was Alan Hubinger and the squad also featured two Nevada players named Harold Hayes and Pete Pridgen.
Upon returning to Nevada for the fall semester, the three of us, Hayes, Pridgen and myself, tried out for Jake Lawlor’s team at the U. Since there was an enormous crowd of returning athletes who had several years’ experience playing service ball, it was quickly obvious that the best chance we had of meaningful playing time would be to join a Reno city league team. Our first sponsor was Rissone’s Service Station. This proved to be very fortuitous as we were able to score free gasoline from our sponsor.
Shortly after the fall semester, many of the university squad either flunked out or left to join semi-pro teams. At that juncture, Hayes, Fausto Mentaberry and myself were recruited by Coach Lawlor to fill in the vacancies for the remainder of the season.
Continued next week.