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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Recalling some memories from long ago

courtesy photo

Sitting at the top of the bleachers at Stockton University last weekend, I couldn’t help but have some flashback memories.

I was there to see Stockton host The College of New Jersey (my alma mater—although back then it was called Trenton State College) for the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship.

Unfortunately for Stockton, the Ospreys lost the game, disappointing the home crowd, but making me happy.

It’s hard to believe, but 35 years ago, I was one of the mangers for Trenton State when we won the NJAC title and made a magical run to the NCAA Division III National Championship game where we lost to Wisconsin-Whitewater.

More than three decades later, I still have vivid memories of that team and what it was able to accomplish, and sitting in the bleachers at Stockton last weekend, it was tough to not reflect back on some of them.

That 1988-89 TSC team was one of the favorites to win the national title. We were led by a 5-foot-7 guard, Greg Grant, who led the nation in scoring and went on to be drafted by the Phoenix Suns a few months after the season ended. “Juice,” as we called him, went on to enjoy a long, successful NBA career, eventually became the head coach at his alma mater, Trenton Central, and now enjoys life running his own sports academy.

Winning our conference title was the start of a tremendous postseason run that ended in the national championship game. Along the way, we hosted the opening round games of the tournament as well as the regionals, where we topped Potsdam State to advance to the Final Four. I still have a piece of the net that we cut down following that game.

The championship game was a thriller, with Wisconsin-Whitewater taking a big lead early before we cut it to five late in the second half. A few bounces didn’t go our way and we fell short of the title. The second-place trophy was too large for anyone’s baggage, so it rode home to Trenton with me on the bus.

I’ll always remember the guys on that team. Besides Greg, there were so many characters, and I’ve been able to keep in touch with many of them.

One, backup guard Tom Mulligan, recently made the decision to retire from coaching at Haddon Twp. where he won more than 600 games in a stellar 32-year career. I’m fortunate to have seen Tom coach a few of those wins.

I played a small role on a Hall of Fame team, but it’s always nice to be included among those on that team.

Somehow, I know the players on this year’s team, regardless of how far they advance in the NCAA tournament, will someday have the same memories.

Dan Russoman is the news/sports director of The Gazette. Follow Russoman on Twitter @DanRussoman.


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