Former Basketball: Warner years under Paschal better than some remember – photo gallery link
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing former UL Ragin’ Cajun basketball star Graylin Warner on my weekday radio show this morning.
Warner is in town this weekend taking part in the reunion of former players and coaches of former coaches Jim Hatfield and Bobby Paschal era.
First of all, it was just cool. For a guy who’s been in the media for three decades, there’s two kind of interviews of athletes.
If it’s an athlete who played while working, it can still be fun, but not like a kid on Christmas morning.
But if it’s athlete you followed as a fan before becoming part of the media, that giddiness returns.
That’s kind of how it was recalling memories of my high school years as a rabid Ragin’ Cajun basketball fan.
Amazingly, Warner didn’t remember giving me his wristbands after beating Arkansas State 81-70 in the regular-season finale in 1982.
He jokingly asked for them back, but no such luck. No idea where they are. Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if I find them one day next to meytreasured Dion Brown No. 21 red road jersey in an old box in my attic.
Once the coolness of interviewing him about my favorite era of Cajun basketball came back down to earth for a spell, the thing that really stuck out in my mind once the interview was over was exactly how many great players and teams the Cajuns played during that period.
I’m not just talking about great college players, but players who are also among the elite NBA players in the history of the sport. Figures that still today almost transcend the sport.
Many still talk about Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in the Great Alaskan Shootout. Also in that tournament was an 81-64 win over Doc Rivers and the Marquette Warriors.
Later that season, the Cajuns lost at Keith Lee and the Memphis Tigers. In the NCAA Tournament, there was that tight 61-57 loss to Dale Ellis and the Tennessee Volunteers.
That next season included a 71-66 win over Kevin Willis and the Michigan State Spartans, before falling to Jeff Malone (and yeah, yeah our old friend Butch Pierre) and Mississippi State’s Bulldogs.
Two games later, the Cajuns were a few inches away from a free throw line jumper beating Phi Slamma Jamma at Houston, losing 79-78 to Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.
The next year, the Cajuns beat Kansas and Florida to win the Sugar Bowl Classic and later hammered Xavier McDaniel and the Wichita State Shockers 78-61 at Blackham.
In fact, Warner had forgotten that his last game as a Cajun was a 71-70 loss in Madison Square Garden in the NIT Final Four consolation game to Dell Curry and Virginia Tech.
Curry became an NBA star in his own right, but his son Stephen Curry is one of the hottest things going in the NBA today.
And don’t forget, the Cajuns didn’t have to go very far to face elite talent. Guys like Joe Dumars at McNeese State and Karl Malone at Louisiana Tech ended up being two of the great NBA players ever, playing on some of the league’s all-time legendary teams.
Not a bad college experience for the likes of Warner, Alonza Allen, Brown and Company.
An era that some who even lived through it may have forgotten how exciting and eventful a ride it was.
The regrets of two close losses in the NCAA Tournament and that NIT semifinal loss to Notre Dame still linger.
But despite those disappointing finishes, those teams were the last great teams at Blackham Coliseum and quite possibly better than many Cajun fans remember.
Athletic Network Footnote by Ed Dugas
PHOTO GALLERY: UL Basketball Reunion, the Hatfield/Paschal Years – taken at the UL Alumni Center at the Friday night social.
PHOTO GALLERY: UL vs. UTA Men’s Basketball – including reunion recognitions at half-time.