100 Years of Roanoke College Hoops

In November 1893, the Roanoke Collegian proudly announced that on October 14, students had played their first game of a "new and popular" sport. Played with a football, the ball was manipulated only with the hands. The point was to get the ball into the "baskets," or goals, at opposite ends of the field. Most importantly, while an active sport, it was not as dangerous as football.

Ultimately, the game stayed inside, on a court, with a round ball, and received some criticism as a 'feminine amusement" because of its lack of vigorous play and danger. Nevertheless, "basket-ball" finally made its official first appearance on the Roanoke campus with the building of the first gymnasium in 1910. Run by a student coach and student manager, the boys unexpectedly won a few games against colleges "old in the game" during the 1910-11 season, the team's first.

After hiring a trained coach - Guy H. "Pinky" Spruhan - in 1913, the team improved dramatically, as did its schedule. By 1916, Roanoke had an undefeated season and won the Virginia-Carolina championship, defeating teams such as W&L (24-17), UNC (45-13), Randolph-Macon (60-17) and Wake Forest (36-18).

Maroon fortunes on the hardwood varied during the 1920s, with many years considered "building years." In 1930, Coach Spruhan retired, turning the position over to Gordon S. White, affectionately known as "Pop" or "Pap." His best teams were 1936-1939, with players known as the "Five Smart Boys": forwards Paul Rice and Gene Studebaker, guards Johnny Wagner and Bob Lieb, and center Bob Sheffield. The team went to the NIT in Kansas City in 1938, losing the final game to what is now Central Missouri State University.

The following year, after a 22-21 season, the Maroons played in the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Tournament at Madison Square Garden, losing the final two games. In the days before an NCAA tournament and division play existed, these were outstanding achievements for a small college team.

Joseph S. "Buddy" Hackman joined White in 1936, and became head coach in 1942 when White left for wartime service. Hackman's most impressive teams were 1952, 1953 and 1954, winning Hackman Coach of the Year those three years, and the team Mason-Dixon Champions in 1953 and 1954.

Charles Moir replaced Hackman in the 1967-68 season. One of his top recruits was Franklin "Frankie" Allen '71, also Roanoke's first African-American athlete. Allen, who still holds numerous individual team and state records, graduated before Roanoke hit the jackpot. In 1972, with starters Hal Johnston '72, Jay Piccola '74, Beatty Barnes '74, Everett Hurst '73 and Dick Adams '72, the Maroons had an outstanding overall record of 28-4. Defeating Mercer and St. Thomas (Fla.) in regional competition, the Maroons continued their wins, resoundingly defeating Missouri-St. Louis and Eastern Michigan in the quarterfinals and semifinals. The NCAA Division II Championship game was held in Evansville, Ind., where the Maroons defeated Akron, 84-72. After the next season, Moir went to Tulane.

Several years after the arrival of Ed Green in 1977-78, Roanoke made the decision to move to Division III. Beginning in the 1982-83 season, the Maroons played in the newly built C. Homer Bast Center. From the beginning, Green's teams had winning records: ODAC champions, 1981-1987; Final Eight, 1979, 1981-1983; Final Four, 1984-1987. Among the many top players were Ken Belton, Bruce Hembrick, Mike Baker and Mike Styles (all '81), Gerald Holmes '83, Reggie Thomas '85 and Shane Abernathy '85, all of whom were honored numerous times in several categories.

Page Moir, Charles Moir's son, became head coach in the 1989-90 season. ODAC championships came in 1994 (26-2 season) with outstanding players Hillary Scott '94, Kevin Martin '94 and Bryant Lee '95; 1996 (24-5) with high scorers Jason Bishop, Tim Braun, Derek Bryant and Jon Maher (all '97); and 2000 (24-5) with superior hoopsmen Paris Butler '00, Brad Dunleavy '01, Jason Strickland '01, and Colby Leftwich '01. Finally, on the coach's achievements, on Jan. 13, 2011, Page Moir became the winningest coach in ODAC history with 231 wins!

To find all the stats you could ever want, click Athletics; Sports; Basketball (M); Archives.


- LINDA ANGLE MILLER, College Archivist

Related Stories