Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ohio alums supporting the Cats

Former players cheer on ’Cats
Two ex-Boardman stars are following Davidson in the NCAA tournament.
Thursday, March 27, 2008

When the Davidson basketball team takes the court against Wisconsin Friday at Detroit’s Ford Field, two Boardman High graduates who played for the tiny North Carolina college will be in the stands cheering.

Greg Dunn (class of 1971) and Jay Powell (’72) played for the Wildcats after stellar careers with the Spartans.

Dunn, an attorney, and Powell, a principal in the Upper Arlington schools, live in the Columbus area and are anxious to make the three-hour trip to Michigan.

“Win or lose, it’s fun to be Cinderella,” said Dunn of No. 10-seeded Davidson, which upset Gonzaga and Georgetown to earn the Sweet 16 berth in the NCAA tournament. “It’s really been something.”

Powell isn’t surprised.

“They lost to North Carolina by four and had UCLA down by 17 at UCLA [earlier this season],” Powell said. “Those games told me this team can compete.”

Because of their Davidson backgrounds, both say they’ve been inundated with calls this week.

Dunn said he’s having fun telling friends that he chose Davidson of the Southern Conference over Duke of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“Davidson back then was good,” said Dunn who helped the Spartans win three straight Steel Valley Conference titles. “When I was being recruited, Davidson was better [than Duke].”

Davidson, N.C., is located about 20 miles north of Charlotte.

“Davidson was like Mayberry,” Dunn said. “Socially and culturally, things were a lot different.

“There were three stoplights in town and they went to blinkers at 9 p.m.,” Dunn said. “We had to drive 17 miles to a McDonald’s. Pizzas were terrible.”

But the people were anything but, Powell said.

“It’s a small Southern school,” Powell said. “The first week, you were constantly greeted on campus by everyone that you would pass. Everyone said. ‘Hey.’

“In the Mahoning Valley, if someone says ‘Hey,’ they want your attention. That took some getting used to.

“Southern hospitality is genuine. The pace of life is slower, people are very, very friendly and accommodating. It was a great place to go to school.”

The former Spartans excelled in the classroom and on the court.

Dunn is one of 26 Davidson players to surpass 1,000 points in his collegiate career, scoring 1,245. Powell scored 982 points.

Dunn said his Wildcats twice came to within a game of qualifying for the NCAA tournament, which then took just 24 teams instead of today’s 65.

“Back then, you had to win the league tournament to get in,” said Dunn, adding that Davidson twice lost to Furman in the championship game. “I really wanted to play in the NCAA tournament. That’s one reason for my choice — Davidson had an easier route to the NCAAs.”

Getting tickets for Friday’s game was neither impossible nor simple. Powell said tickets were made available to Davidson students, alumni and donors.

Dunn said when he called he was asked, “Who was the college president in 1975?”

Fortunately, he remembered Sam Spencer.

Neither will be experiencing the NCAA tournament as a fan for the first time.

Dunn said when he was being recruited, Rice took him to the Houston Astrodome when John Wooden’s UCLA team played Villanova.

Powell attended NCAA tournament games in Cleveland in 2000 and Columbus last year.


Anonymous said...

Actually, there's a small factual error in this report. Jay Powell graduated in either 1975 or 1976.

Anonymous said...

Local Youngstown paper, those dates were when they gradutated from high school in Youngstown.