Memories, relationships keep 'Legends' coming backJune 10, 2019
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
HUNTINGBURG — Monday afternoon’s gathering at the YMI in Huntingburg was a who’s who in the history of southern Indiana sports — primarily basketball.
Standing by the doorway was J.R. Holmes, the boys basketball coach at Bloomington South who became Indiana’s new all-time wins leader this past season. At a nearby table, catching up with longtime friends and competitors was Sam Alford — legendary high school basketball coach at South Knox, Martinsville and New Castle and the father of Steve and Sean Alford.
What is it that brings all these legends together?
Del Harris, one of the more notable names in attendance on Monday afternoon, perhaps had the best answer.
“The relationships — there’s nothing more important than the relationships,” said Harris, a longtime NBA coach and current vice president of the Texas Legends, the NBA G-League affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks. Harris also coached at Dale High School for two seasons. “I know over half of these guys here, a lot of them I know from coaching or playing against them. My family’s history goes back to Spencer County, Warrick County, Perry County and even Dubois County — this is just where my roots are.”
This once-a-year meeting was started by Joe Todrank and Gary Duncan back in 2004 and it has became known simply as “Legends”. While the name certainly fits, Todrank joked that it was what they stuck with since they couldn’t think of a better title.
While the first meeting took place at Fleig’s Cafe in Ferdinand, every gathering since then has been held in Huntingburg. However, this was the first year they’ve met at the YMI as previous meetings always took place at The Overtime.
When it first started, the Legends only had 12 total people at the first annual meeting. 15 years later the total has jumped up to 75 total attendees and it doesn’t appear that it will be slowing down any time soon.
“It’s just fun to see people and talk about past sports (experiences). Sports in Dubois County are a very big deal,” said John Wellemeyer, a legendary member of the Huntingburg Happy Hunters basketball team and a 2018 inductee of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. “It’s also a way for me to get to meet a lot of new people.”
Dave Small, the star of the 1963 tiny Ireland basketball team that surprised the state by making it all the way to the Sweet 16, joked that the tales get more and more interesting as the years go by.
“These guys, they’ve all experienced a lot of the same things you did growing up. You hear a lot of old stories,” Small said. “You also hear a lot of lies, too (laughs). The stories get really big.”
Wellemeyer chipped in: “The stories tend to get much better as you get older.”
While there were a few first time attendees, most of the Legends have been to multiple gatherings. One of the most common visitors is Roger Kaiser, a native of Dale who scored a total of 1,549 points during his four years with the Golden Aces and graduated in 1957. He later went on to play college basketball at Georgia Tech with good friend and Huntingburg alum Alan Nass. After his playing days, Kaiser became known as a legendary college basketball coach as he won four NAIA titles — one at West Georgia College and three at Life College in Atlanta.
What keeps Kaiser coming back?
“Just being able to see people you haven’t seen in a long time,” said Kaiser, who now lives in Carrollton, Georgia. “Joe (Todrank) lives in (Las) Vegas, I’ve only been out there a couple of times. I’ll see (Alan) Nass some, but I don’t get to see many of these people any other time but now.”
While many of the Legends were able to stay for the entire gathering, which included a dinner, some had other prior engagements they had to get to. For example, immediately after catching up with some good friends for a little bit Nass had to head over to Oakland City where he helped the university with some on-site interviews as they continue their search for a new president. This is just one of Nass’ duties as a member of the board at Oakland City University.
But, Nass had plenty of time to rekindle some memories with old teammates and opponents. He also had a chance to relive some old moments with the Yellow Jackets with Kaiser. When asked what his best memory from his time at Georgia Tech was, the answer was rather simple.
“Beating Kentucky (laughs) — I don’t mention to people that I didn’t play my freshman year but in the four years I was down there, we had a 5-3 record against Kentucky,” Nass said. “The teammates I’ve had along the way are lifelong teammates. We’ve stayed in contact with each other and being able to get together with a lot of those people that share a similar passion shows the camaraderie.”
The camaraderie and relationships is the common theme among why the Legends continue to look forward to this one day in June every year. It’s a tradition that will likely continue for as long as the participants remain interested. Based on Monday’s attendance, it looks as if that will be for the foreseeable future.
“To relive memories that happened 50-55 years ago, it still sticks in your mind and it’s just great to come back,” Small said. “As you get older, one of the most important things you can have is relationships.”
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