|Seattle, Kentucky to face off in Rupp Arena 50 years after their NCAA title game|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 30 October 2007 13:15|
So a few years ago while in Las Vegas, the Seattle University coach walked up to then-Kentucky coach Tubby Smith and started chatting, first about both coming from large families, then about their respective schools.
During that conversation, Callero planted the idea of Seattle and Kentucky playing, a suggestion that will come to fruition on Saturday when the Redhawks face the Wildcats at Kentucky's legendary Rupp Arena.
It's an exhibition game that will honor the 1957-58 teams from both schools, who played in the NCAA championship game that season in nearby Louisville, Ky.
``I said we would love that opportunity to come over there and play you guys kind of as a commemorative event,'' Callero recalled.
Now, the suggestion is reality, and also serves as a gateway for Seattle.
Earlier this year, the Division II Redhawks applied to become Division I members for the first time since 1980, in the hopes of recapturing much of the school's history. Seattle will play a Division II schedule and be eligible for Division II championships this year, before playing a mixed schedule next year and a mostly Division I slate in 2009-10.
``It gives us a chance to honor the history and tradition and do it back in Lexington,'' Callero said. ``It just is amazing timing that it coincides with our emergence back to Division I.''
Then called the Chieftains, the 1957-58 Seattle squad featured Hall of Fame forward Elgin Baylor, the first of 10 players from the small Jesuit school near downtown Seattle who went on to have NBA careers.
Baylor played just two seasons at Seattle, but averaged 31.1 points and still holds 11 school records. Baylor had transferred from the College of Idaho, hoping for an opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament.
``My last year there I was listening to the radio and got the NCAA final on the radio ... saying it would be great to play at that level, play at a major college,'' Baylor said.
Seattle had made the NCAA tournament in four of the five years before Baylor arrived, and played in the NIT the other season. The team struggled early in the 1957-58 season before winning 16 of its final 17 games and carrying that momentum into the tournament. Seattle routed Wyoming, squeaked past San Francisco, held off California in overtime and beat Kansas State 73-51 in the national semifinals.
In the championship game, Seattle led 39-36 at halftime, but couldn't hold off Adolph Rupp's Wildcats in the second half. Vern Hatton scored 30 points and Johnny Cox added 24 for Kentucky, while Seattle was led by the 25 points of Baylor, who made just 9 of 32 shots.
The current crop of Redhawks has an appreciation and understanding for the history of the school.
``To play in Rupp Arena with the tradition they have there and to honor the old Seattle University when they challenged a powerhouse like Kentucky, it's a honor to be in the same sentence with that group,'' said forward Ryan Coldren.
The Redhawls also have some talent. They were 23-9 last year, and reached the second round of the Division II tournament. In recent seasons, they have beaten Division I Portland and Pacific.
Kentucky, however, is a whole new level.
``It's amazing. It's a cherry-on-the-top kind of thing,'' said forward Leigh Swanson. ``I didn't expect it. It's exciting to go play in front of 23,000.''
Seattle's gym holds 1,000.