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OCU's Hub

by Terry Phelps

A synonym for “hub” is “center.” Appropriate for Hub Reed, a two-time All-American center for OCU’s basketball team from 1954-58. He and his teammates get together each year to reminisce about their years at OCU. Their experiences are interesting and amusing.

The team members have met each year for about two decades — before COVID, meeting in various locations twice a year, but now only once a year, hosted by different members of the group. The group includes Reed, Dennis Jeter, Lyndon Lee, Roger Holloway, Bennie Ratzlaff, Cecil Magana, Larry Bradshaw, Bill Juby, Ray Gilbert and Mike Kelley, along with their wives. Herman and LaDonna Meinders have also attended. Carol Hansen, wife of the late Paul Hansen, Abe Lemons’ assistant coach, has hosted two get-togethers.

They reminisce about their games, trips, campus life, careers and families (three named their kids after teammates). Jeter says with a chuckle that they now talk about their aches and pains. All are aged 88 to 90. They attend various OCU events, such as a recent boating regatta on the Oklahoma River. During one reunion, OCU honored the eight All-American basketball players (including Hub Reed), and a line of former players covered the length of the basketball court.

In high school, Reed (6 feet, 10 inches tall) considered playing baseball but was told by the coach, “I don’t think we can use you with that strike zone.” So Reed chose basketball and made all-state and all-American, recognized by a writer in The Daily Oklahoman as Hub because “Hubert sounded like a bookworm.”

Assistant OCU basketball coach Abe Lemons (who became head coach in 1956 and become a legend, winning 699 games in his career) recruited Reed by taking him on a trip to Corn, Oklahoma, to recruit eventual teammate Bennie Ratzlaff. Coming later to sign a letter of intent to attend OCU, Reed wasn’t deterred by a fire nearby as OCU’s field house burned down.

After the field house burned, the basketball team practiced in the Taft Junior High gym because the Goldbug Gym was half the size of a regular basketball court. They played their games in the Municipal Auditorium downtown. 

For conditioning, head coach Doyle Parrack had the players take ballet lessons at OCU, which drew considerable attention, including an article in Look magazine and a headline, “Twinkle-toed Chiefs Come to town,” in a newspaper in a town where the Chiefs were to play. 

An article in OCU’s Campus newspaper included a picture of one of the players in a ballet lesson and a quote from Parrack saying that to increase team hustle, “We simply let it be known that all reserves and second stringers will have to put on a halftime skit at all the ball games. The competition for starting positions will increase tremendously.

The team lived in its own dorm (old barracks), and half of the Goldbug gym was a kitchen for them with their own cook. “We looked forward to breakfast,” Reed said, “because we knew Mrs. Ollie would fix us anything we wanted.” Players washed their own dishes and cleaned their barracks. Team members Jeter and Ratzlaff earned a few dollars changing light bulbs in the lofty tower of the Gold Star Building.

The team worked out every day, twice on Saturday. “We had to eat supper at 4:30,” Reed said, “because we had practice at six for three hours, with 30 minutes of calisthenics before and after.” Ratzlaff remembers once after an unsatisfactory practice, they had to run 100 laps.

The players had wrestling matches with each other to let off steam, and Lyndon Lee recalls snowball fights and water fights with neighboring religion majors, throwing buckets and pans of water at each other.

For many players, traveling around the country for games was their first experience flying. They also traveled by railroad. Reed remembers one 17-day trip in which they played in Colorado, Utah, Tennessee, Louisiana and New York, getting to see great sights. In a game against Canisius College near Niagara Falls, Reed made 22 consecutive free throws, missing a 23rd after being teased by Canisius fans under the goal, hollering, “You traded legs with a jay and got beat out the butt.” Returning from the trip, the team arrived at OCU at 4 a.m. and had final exams starting at 7:40. 

Lee tells of one trip to Peoria, Illinois, where the team happened to be in the same hotel as movie star Gene Autrey was staying. Teammate Roger Holloway knew Autry since they were both from Frederick, Oklahoma. Roger introduced his teammates to Autry, who then introduced them all to Annie Oakley, sharpshooter for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Reed played seven years as a professional in the National Basketball Association, and then, like some of his OCU teammates, taught and coached. Like many of his teammates, he praises their OCU coaches: “We couldn’t have had better coaches because they cared for us. They checked on us. They found if we were making our grades.” Jeter says that all his teammates attained success as educators and businessmen because OCU prepared and inspired them to serve others. 

Their next reunion will be Oct. 29 in Oklahoma City, hosted by Melanie Wallace, wife of deceased team member Jerry Wallace.

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