Highlander Hoops Alumni Relive Glory Days
Smiles broke through the vaunted game faces of almost 30 men's and women's basketball players at Friday's Winter Homecoming basketball alumni games.
Nobody's smile was brighter than that of Pat DiServio '90, who ended a two-decade Dedmon Center scoring drought with a drive to the basket off a Ryan Charles '00 feed in the first half of his red team's 81-66 win.
"It was awesome," he said. "I wish I could have played with Ryan more."
DiServio was making his first alumni game appearance and first visit to RU in more than 20 years.
The RU women's basketball alumnae opened the nostalgic night's doubleheader with a 54-54 tie.
"It feels great to lace them up again," said Corrie Fertitta '08, who also played professionally for two years in Germany and is now coaching and teaching in the Roanoke area.
The house lights dimmed, the music crescendoed, and veteran Dedmon Center public address announcer Neal Leahy introduced the returning Highlanders. The red team's Nanette Cox '84 opened the scoring in the women's game with a drop-step drive to the hoop off a feed from longtime teammate Pebbles Smith '85, one of several RU Hall of Famers who played.
Smith and Cox were reunited with teammate Barbara Lewis '86 on the red team led by their collegiate coach, RU Hall of Famer Pat Barrett '69.
"The playing time issue that used to be so important wasn’t as big an issue tonight as breathing time," Barrett said.
Anne Sluder '95 came straight to the Dedmon Center after wrapping up a jump-rope club session at the Charlotte, N.C., elementary school where she teaches.
"It feels great to be here but kind of weird as well," she said during pregame warm-ups. "I have the strange feeling that I am back in the day getting ready for another practice here."
Sluder, also a Hall of Famer, played in two different NCAA championship tournaments in the same year—with the 1993 volleyball team and the 1993-94 basketball team.
Tyler Kleckner '08 made the trip from Raleigh, N.C., where he works in the financial industry. "I just love to see these guys every year and hear the stories from their time at RU," Kleckner said. "It is a lot of fun and a chance to maintain great relationships."
As the red men's team coach, Tim Blassingame '91 bested Tom Gallaher '96, who led the men's white team. After the post-game handshakes, Blassingame said, "The friendships that continue to grow are the best thing about this weekend. I can't imagine being anywhere else."
Said Gallaher, "We'll get them next year." Meanwhile, he said, "the real fun will be spending time with the guys during the rest of the weekend."