Almost Yesterday: Dribbling to Evansville
It seems like almost yesterday that 15 students from Southeast Missouri State University set out to dribble a basketball from Cape Girardeau, Missouri to Evansville, Indiana. The Southeast basketball team of 1960-61 had a great record and qualified to play in the NCAA college division national tournament.
To call attention to the team’s success and to rally support for their participation in the tournament, Southeast students Rudy Gardner and Jim Piatchek organized a 15-man dribbling team that departed Cape Girardeau at 8 a.m. on March 15, 1961. Their task was to dribble a single basketball all the way to Evansville in time for the tip off of the game between Southeast and the University of Chicago. They would have 35 hours to dribble 150 miles.
A Missouri state trooper escorted the excited dribblers across the bridge into Illinois, and the 15-man team was on its way. Five students were in each of three cars. Each student would dribble the ball one hour at a time, each covering a ten mile segment of the journey.
The merry dribblers successfully bounced across southern Illinois, facing their only significant challenge when they came to the flooded Wabash river in the middle of the night, but they reached Evansville at 4:15 a.m., 14 hours ahead of schedule. After a long nap at the local YMCA, the proud dribblers led a parade to Roberts Memorial Arena, making a loud and raucous entrance and presented the battered basketball to coach Charles Parsley and the Southeast team.
The event attracted national attention and prompted a group of students to repeat the action in 1964. Oh, yes, Southeast won the game 67-41. It seems like almost yesterday.