MONDAY, MARCH 18, 2002
Dolphins Honor All-Time Hoops Legends
by Peter Casella, JU Public Affairs

All you have to do is walk into Swisher Gym, preferably when no one else is there, and gaze at the jerseys hanging on the walls. Grab a seat in the bleachers, close your eyes and let time melt away as you envision the legendary JU Dolphins basketball players who used to wear the life-sized versions of those jerseys on the court once again.

The memories are almost black and white as No. 52 pours in shot after shot. No. 53 defies gravity as he almost brushes the rafters while swatting away yet another opponent's shot. No. 24 grabs the blocked shot in mid-air and scampers for a twisting lay-up. On the other end of the court, No. 43 grabs a rebound and fires an outlet pass to start a fast break. No. 32 fights traffic in the lane and crashes the boards for a crucial tip-in. No. 4, racing down the court after a steal with a defender matching every step, pulls up and pops in a 15-footer from the right of the key.

Some memories are meant to last a lifetime.

The six legendary JU players who retired those numbers were back in Swisher Gym on Saturday, Feb. 2, for "Legends Day," a celebration of JU basketball history. Those Dolphins legends - No. 52 Roger Strickland, No. 53 Artis Gilmore, No. 24 Rex Morgan, No. 43 James Ray, No. 32 Otis Smith and No. 4 Dee Brown - were honored during a halftime ceremony. All six stayed after the game to sign autographs and reminisce with fans. The game attracted the largest crowd since the team moved back to historic Swisher Gym in 1999.

The program also recognized the Dolphins No. 1 fan, Willie Byrd. Byrd can just about count on one hand the number of JU home games he's missed since the program began.

When talking about JU basketball history, the obvious highlight is the 1969-70 team that defeated the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in the Mideast Regional Championship and advanced all the way to the NCAA title game against John Wooden's UCLA Bruins. By the time they won the Mideast Regional, the team had so captivated the city, players needed police cars to get them through the crowd at the airport and back to Arlington.

"For this small university to knock off a Kentucky team coached by Adolph Rupp and the No.1 team in the country, and then to beat Iowa from the Big Ten, was an incredible Cinderella story," said former JU forward Rod McIntyre, now a local attorney. "I've heard the final against UCLA regarded as the day Jacksonville stood still."

Ironically, the only team to beat the Dolphins that year was Florida State - led by current Dolphins head coach Hugh Durham. FSU won 89-83 in Tallahassee, but JU got its revenge with an 85-81 victory at home.

"It didn't catch me by surprise," said Durham. "They had a legitimate team that nobody knew about."

With the Dolphins completing their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1995, the legends credit Durham with turning the program around by giving it some much-needed stability.

"They're certainly moving in the right direction," said Gilmore. "They've been able to accomplish an awful lot under Coach Durham. They just need to continue and not lose their focus."

For the current crop of JU Dolphins, Legends Day allowed them to see the grand history of the program, a perspective that will help them focus on a return to basketball greatness.

JU Dolphins Legends

Roger Strickland (No. 52) 
  Position: Guard
  Years on the team: 1960-63
  Career highlights: All-American in 1962, 1963. Holds top scoring average in JU history (27.3 ppg.). Holds team records for single-season scoring average (32.6 ppg.) and points in a season (783). Has team single-game record for assists (20). Was L.A. Lakers' top pick and seventh overall in the 1963 NBA Draft.
  Current Occupation: Retired Vice President of Marketing at BellSouth Telecommunications

Artis Gilmore (No. 53) Position: Center Years on the team: 1969-71 Career highlights: All-American in 1969, 1970. Holds team and nation career records in rebounds per game (22.7). Holds team records for career rebounds (1,224), single-season rebounds (621), field goals (307) and blocked shots (269). Consensus Player of the Year 1971. Led team to first and only NCAA championship game in 1970. Was top pick of the 1971 ABA Draft by the Kentucky Colonels. Chicago Bulls top pick in 1975 NBA re-entry draft. Current Occupation: Supervisor at W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractors Inc.

Rex Morgan (No. 24) Position: Guard Years on the team: 1968-1970 Career highlights: All-American in 1969. Ranks third in team history in career scoring average (22.0 ppg.). Holds team single-season record for free throws made (215). Has second-best single-season scoring average (26.7 ppg.). Led team to NCAA national championship game in 1970, was second-round NBA Draft pick by Boston Celtics in '70. Current Occupation: Head basketball coach at Arlington Country Day School

James Ray (No. 43) Position: Forward/center Years on the team: 1976-1980 Career highlights: All-America in 1980. Holds Sun Belt Conference's single-game points record (45). Was Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in 1980. Ranks fourth on team in career rebounds (911) and seventh in scoring (1,591). Was Denver Nuggets top pick and fifth overall in the 1980 NBA Draft. Current Occupation: Counselor at Gateway Community Services

Otis Smith (No. 32) Position: Forward Years on the team: 1982-1986 Career highlights: Honorable mention All-America in 1984, 1986. Team career leader in games played (117) and career minutes (4,263). Ranks fourth on team career list for points (1,715) and rebounds (911). Led team to its last conference championship and NCAA appearance in 1986. Was second-round NBA Draft pick by Denver Nuggets in 1986. Current Occupation: Executive Director of Community Relations for the Golden State Warriors Foundation

Dee Brown (No. 4) Position: Guard Years on the team: 1986-1990 Career highlights: Honorable mention All-America in 1989, 1990. Holds team records for steals in a career (201) and single-season (88). Holds Sun Belt Conference Tournament single-game scoring record (41). Was Boston Celtics' top pick and 19th overall in the 1990 NBA Draft and named to all-rookie team. Current Occupation: Special Assistant to Orlando Magic Operations

1969-70 JU Dolphins...Where Are They Now?

Rusty Baldwin, point guard, former dentist in St. Petersburg
Mike Blevins, guard/forward, local investment banker
Pembrook Burrows, Forward, Florida Highway Patrolman in West Palm Beach
Chip Dublin, shooting guard, unemployed in South Carolina
Artis Gilmore, center, supervisor at W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractors Inc.
Dan Hawkins, guard/forward, died at age 50 of a heart attack in Deltona
Curtis Kruer, guard/forward, environmentalist in Montana
Rod McIntyre, forward, local real estate and family law attorney
Rex Morgan, shooting guard, head basketball coach at Arlington Country Day School
Greg Nelson, forward, director of nursing homes in Dayton, Ohio
Ken Selke, center, cardiologist in St. Louis, Mo.
Vaughn Wedeking, point guard, dentist in Portland, Ore.
Tom Wasdin, assistant coach, real estate investor in Cocoa Beach
Joe Williams, head coach, general manager of WBCC-TV in Cocoa