The Legends Cometh
(Pictured Above: Former WSSU Women’s Basketball Coach Alfred Harvey (left) poses with former Athletic Director Al Roseboro.)
Former hardcourt stars enshrined at WSSU
The Winston-Salem State University Athletics Department paid homage to some of its most prominent former student-athletes during the Earl Monroe Legacy Weekend, Feb. 1-2.
Named for former WSSU and New York Knicks standout Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, Legacy Weekend was conceived by Athletic Director Bill Hayes.
“I envisioned it to be a basketball homecoming,” said Hayes, who has achieved near-legendary status himself for helping WSSU garner a slew of CIAA championships in recent years . “That’s really what it’s all about, trying to have a special basketball homecoming where you get alumni and former great players to come back once a year, and the greatest of the great, we want to hang their jerseys on the wall for perpetuity.”
The university began honoring former basketball greats in 2011, but expanded the celebration to a weekend of festivities this year. Six individuals and one unforgettable team, the 1963 CIAA Championship team, were selected by the Legacy Weekend Committee to be honored. The team, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its CIAA title this year, was joined by fellow 2013 Earl Monroe Legacy Weekend Honorees William English, ’69; Sandy Smith, ’73; the late Carlos Terry, ’78; Reggie Gaines, ’80; Keenan Menefee-Long, ’86; and Carolyn Huntley, ’87. Their jerseys were unveiled alongside those of 2011 recipients on the Gaines Center’s Legacy Wall during halftime of the men’s basketball game against Livingstone College on Feb. 2.
Menefee-Long, who is hailed by the university as “one of the greatest women’s basketball players to ever don the red and white,” came to the university at the behest of her older brother, the late Carl Menefee, who was also a student there. Menefee-Long said she thrived there, thanks to the guidance of a host of caring mentors that included Coaches Clarence “Big House” Gaines, Stinson Conley, Alfred Harvey and former Athletic Director Al Roseboro. Adding her #12 jersey on the wall was just the latest in a long line of accolades that the Weldon native has received. A two time NCAA All-American and NCAA Division II leading scorer in 1985 and ’86, Menefee-Long, who was also a standout softball player at WSSU, has been inducted into both the C.E. “Big House” Gaines WSSU Athletics Hall of Fame and the CIAA Hall of Fame. Still, Menefee-Long, a judicial assistant and the mother of one son, said she was honored to be in the number at this year’s Legacy Weekend.
“It was very humbling, very heartfelt. It was a touching moment,” she said of the unveiling. “A lot of people are afraid to speak of God, but I give God all the glory for my accomplishments because He gave me the ability. Even though my name was on that jersey, I still glorify God.”
Committee Chair Alfred Harvey, a former WSSU football and women’s basketball coach, said the honorees were selected based on a variety of factors.
“The criteria is pretty much set,” said Harvey, a WSSU alumnus and member of the school’s 1971 championship football team. “You want somebody who was outstanding during their career, who set a standard and set a pace, and had strong character.”
Brian Murrill, the marketing coordinator for the athletics department, organized the weekend events, which kicked off with an All Star Alumni game at the Gaines Center on Feb. 1, followed by a “gym-jam” party. Played in two 15-minute continuous halves, the alumni game attracted a wide variety of Rams, from recent grads to alums who graduated decades ago. The two teams – Red versus Black – battled it out on the court before a crowd of enthusiastic students and alumni.
Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach Tierra Rudd found herself hitting the court for the first time since her days as a Lady Ram ended in 2007. Rudd, whose father played professional basketball in France for nearly a decade, said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to throw on a practice jersey one more time.
“Anytime there’s a chance to play basketball, I’m all for it. I’m gettingto see my old teammates and the girls, they’re excited about it,” she said, referencing the current Lady Rams. “I feel pretty good about it. I already told them I can’t run like I used to, but I’m going to have fun out there.”
Rudd was joined on the Red team by John “Sport E. Odie” Adams, a member of the school’s Class of 2004 and former baller. Adams, a mass communications major who has hosted everything from local radio programs to BET’s “106 and Park,” said his time on the team taught him many lessons that still guide him today.
“It’s helped me big time, just having to go through hard times and disappointments,” said the Charlotte resident. “It’s taught me discipline and finishing what you started. Like in basketball, you lose a hard game but you’ve got to go back and play another one.”
Adams’ return to the Gaines Center was accompanied by a rush of nostalgia as he looked back on his college days.
“It’s just good to be back on this court shooting on these rims and playing on this wood again,” Adams said. “It’s a beautiful feeling.”
Former Women’s Basketball Coach John Williams, a member of the school’s Human Performance & Sports Science faculty, led the Red team to a 82-66 victory over the Black team, helmed by Assistant Football Coach James Braswell. Williams, a member of the Human Performance and Sports Science faculty, said prior to the game that things could go either way.
“It’s only so much you can do,” he said, referencing the players’ varying degrees of physicalconditioning. “It’ll be good to get an opportunity to coach some of the former players. We’re just going to go out there and have fun.”
Legacy honorees were feted on Feb. 2 during a special reception prior to the women’s and men’s basketball games, then whisked off to meet current players before taking their reserved legends seating at the Gaines Center, where the Rams fell to Livingstone College and the Lady Rams team prevailed, ending a five game losing streak and picking up their first Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Southern Division win.
“It’s important because these are people who set the foundation and paved the way,” said Murrill, a member of the university’s Class of 2008. “These are legends, and it’s important to let them know through the years that we appreciate everything they’ve done, we’re grateful for them helping set the foundation for this athletic program.”
Legacy Weekend will be staged biennially, organizers say.