Some things change, others remain the same courtside for this former Mav
It had been a while. Nearly 50 years to be precise.
I realized last Friday night, while sitting in the stands cheering for the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team, that it was sometime during the 1964-65 season when I last sat in the bleachers for a Maverick basketball game.
That was during my one and only year at “North Avenue University” — a year memorable mostly because a future Colorado state senator conveniently overlooked academic eligibility requirements and allowed me to remain in student government despite making C or better grades for fewer than a third of my classes.
Let’s just say my primary interests back then were outside the classroom, sometimes funded by frequent short-term Friday afternoon student loans from the office of the Assistant Dean of Students, the aforementioned future lawmaker and current CMU trustee.
Some things, I noticed, were markedly different. Basketball games back then were played in the old gym in Houston Hall, its well-worn hardwood and uncomfortable seating a far cry from the cushioned seats, big screen video, even boxes with food and beverage service, in Brownson Arena.
Rather than multi-level parking, it was usually possible to poach a space around the surplus wooden buildings that housed faculty offices on the site where the Moss Performing Arts Center now stands.
Other things were remarkably familiar as we watched the Lady Mavs win the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship.
My aging memory’s a little hazy, but I can certainly imagine hearing “Hey! Baby” or “Louie Louie” back then, just as we did last weekend from the student band. If not in the old Houston Hall gym, then later in the evening at Dave Perry’s Smoke Shack or down at The Pad while celebrating with a cold 3.2 beer.
Hugh Plumleigh still plays those songs sometimes for my Grand Junction Lions Club every Tuesday, just as he did for us every weekend nearly 50 years ago in the earliest incarnation of Huey, Dewey and Louie. Back then 18-year-olds could legally purchase $1 pitchers with the proceeds of those short-term student loans.
When our new neighbors moved in last August, we noticed a couple of tall, athletic–looking daughters. We learned their names were Katrina and Sharaya. While we were too late to watch Katrina, we promised to take in a game or two to see the younger of the talented Selsor sisters play. They even offered tickets.
Suddenly it was the end of the season — time was short and there was barely time to get seats.
My own stint as a mediocre baller ended my senior year at Grand Junction High School. A few years later, I sat through every home game of the fledgling Phoenix Suns, covering their first two years for a Phoenix radio station. That included an initial season where they won barely a dozen games. I’ve seen the Nuggets when they played in the old arena in downtown Denver, as well as in their fancy new facility.
For my money, there’s nothing quite like women’s basketball at the collegiate level. To me, there’s a pace and intensity every time down the floor that you’re lucky to see in any but the final few minutes at a men’s game. Or especially at the NBA level, where you can skip most games until the end of the fourth quarter.
Sharaya, Katrina and their teammates wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play back when I attended Mesa Junior College. Back then it was intramurals or club sports only. Thank God for the uppity women of the ‘60s and early ‘70s and for Title IX mandates for equality in collegiate sports.
I talked briefly after the Saturday night championship game with another icon of Mesa women’s basketball.
My fellow former Grand Junction City Council member, Jack Scott, watched the game from about a dozen rows back in the stands. A member of the Mavericks’ Hall of Honor as both an All-Conference player and later as a coach, Jack was down on the floor, calling the shots while leading earlier Lady Mavs teams from 1981-85.
Back then, he told me, three women’s teams had to share the same uniforms — volleyball, then basketball, then softball. Thankfully, some things do change.