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Neither the thrill of victory nor the agony of defeat served as the topic of Dwane Casey’s keynote speech at Friday night’s fundraiser for the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame. Nor did he mention yesteryear’s game-winning shots or air balls.
Casey, the former University of Kentucky player and present coach of the Detroit Pistons, spoke of how basketball can be “a connector to the game of life.” At a time of polarization, political and otherwise, his message hit home with an audience of about 200.
As an example, Casey recalled integrating a school in Morganfield, Ky., as a fourth-grader.
“You had to go through a picket line (of protesters shouting) ‘Go home, n-----,’” he recalled. “‘We don’t want you here.’ So every day at recess, I had to fight. Somebody called me the n-word, and here we go fighting.
“And some of those people are my friends today because of basketball.”
Basketball bonded the “us” and “them” in a common cause, he said. Schoolyard antagonists shared in the joys and despairs the game can produce. This coming together can be especially true on the high school level, Casey said.
“Everybody together, talking, pulling for their local teams, talking, laughing,” he said. “so it’s a connector.”
Casey cited this year’s class of inductees as an example of basketball’s power to unify. The class, which was officially inducted in a ceremony on Saturday afternoon, included William Falls, the coach at Hopkinsville’s school for blacks during the time of segregation, Attucks High, from 1935 to 1967, and Sammy Moore, who led Louisville Central to the 1952 National Negro Tournament championship.
“Putting those guys in is a huge step for the Hall of Fame,” Casey said. “I think that’s a beautiful thing that they’ve done to include those schools in this Hall of Fame.”
Ken Trivette, the board chairman for the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame, said high school teams connect fans, schools and communities. He noted the fond memories created by former players and coaches. “Shining knights of old,” he called them.
The Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame was established in 2012. Besides Falls and Moore, this year’s inductees are Scott Draud (Highlands guard 1983-86), Nell Fookes (Boone County coach 1985-2015), Robin Harmon (Sheldon Clark guard 1974-78), Charles Hurt (Shelby County forward 1976-79), Rick Jones (Scott County guard 1996-99), Steve Miller (Henry Clay forward 1981-84), Doug Schloemer (Holmes forward 1975-78), Irene Moore Strong (Breathitt County guard 1974-78), Charles Thomas (Harlan forward 1991-95) and Curtis Turley (Hendeson County coach 1976-2008).
The fundraiser generated about $35,000, Trivette said.