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Ramblins - Tech has tradition of basketball excellence
By Pat Edwards
Ramblin' Reck Club
Tech's first basketball team, founded in 1906 was a small club under Coach Chapman. The team won two of the three games played that first season, starting a rich tradition of winning that has reached an all time record of 983 wins and 866 losses.
Tech failed to field another team until 1909, when the famous Coach John Heisman, who had been hired by the Institute to coach football and baseball, lead the team in a disappointing second season for only one win against six losses. Tech's next teams in 1913 and 1914 had a two year record of .500.
Heisman's efforts were spread a little too thin, so the basketball program at Tech fell into abandon until Coach William Alexander. Coach Alex, Tech's much loved "Captain of the Scrubs," who lead his own National Championship Football Team as well as coaching football for twenty-four years, revived the Yellow Jacket Basketball program in his first year of taking the reigns from Coach Heisman.
Tech has had a vibrant program ever since 1920. The Yellow Jackets won their first conference championship in 1938 when they claimed the SEC Title for that year. Tech has also taken ACC Championships four times in 1980, 85, 90, and 93. In 1990 Tech even made the NCAA final four.
Three of Tech's ACC Championships were won under Coach Bobby Cremins. Coach Cremins' tenure at Tech has been distinguished by twelve consecutive wining seasons and eleven post-season invitations. Coach Cremins' career record at Tech stood at the start of the season at .631 with 274 wins. This record left him nineteen victories short of the record number of career victories for a head coach held by John Hyder.
Some of the great names of college and professional basketball have put on the White and Gold to play for Tech. Among these greats five of those jerseys have been retired.
Tom Hammonds, number twenty, had an aggressive performance on the basketball court. Tom was one of only three Tech athletes to break the 2,000 point mark in his four years at Tech.
Dedicated to the game and the team, Hammonds was equally dedicated to the community at large. Tech distinguished his moral character in 1989 by awarding him the Total Person Student-Athlete award.
Roger Kiaser, number twenty-one, set a record in 1961 for the most points scored in a single game up to that time. Coach Adolph Rupp of Kentucky, who was the opponent for that game, described Kaiser's shooting as "murder."
Kaiser also won all-American honors in 1960-61 and was named the SEC Player of the Year. He went on to further national success in professional sports and later as a collegiate head coach, now at Life College in Marietta, where he has led teams to championships as a coach, as well.
John "Spider" Salley, number 22, was a seven foot tall man with fingers on his hands so long and thin that they looked, it was said, like spider's legs. Spider Salley was honored as nominee in both the Naismith's and Wooden's awards in his senior year, as well as all-ACC and all-ACC tournament picks twice. John also earned honors from the AP and UPI surveys and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
In the NBA, Spider was also successful as a pivotal member of the 1989 Detroit Piston team that won the NBA Championship .
Mark Price, number 25, was a player who entered the Tech program with little fanfare, but left Tech with very high praise.
Thought to be too small and slow in his defensive playing, Mark was felt to be one of the hardest-working players in the game. He received conference recognition all of his three years, played on an US Olympic basketball team, and later went on to the NBA.
Rich Yunkus, number forty, another mid-western basketball prodigy, had a Tech career scoring record of 2,232 points over three years averaging 26.6 points a game.
Characterized as a "soft-touch left hander," Yunkus' basketball prowess was no less celebrated than his academic achievement. Rich was a Dean's List student at Tech who readily admitted to having chosen Tech over other colleges for her academic reputation.
In the history of Tech Athletics, basketball has risen from a hesitant beginning to a respected program, with a rich heritage as well as a promising future. As Tech celebrates the beginning of a new era in the Alexander Coliseum we can also celebrate that heritage and future as well.
Copyright © 1998 by Gregory S. Scherrer, Editor and by the Student Publications Board
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