Part 2 of the 1995 sweet 16 with the Williamson's

So I have 7 tickets in my hand and I can barely control myself. Have you ever traveled somewhere and your paranoid about losing your wallet so you check for it every two minutes? That’s what I was doing with these tickets. I don’t remember anyone asking to hold them but I wasn’t planning on them getting out of my sight.

My Uncle Tyrone is ready to leave and find us hotel for the weekend. We are in downtown Kansas City so I knew we could not get a room anywhere close to where we were. Needless to say I couldn’t convince Tyrone of this. He stopped at about 5 hotels before a lady told him we would have to leave the city to find a room. We found a hotel 2 hours away from Kansas City. The guys in one room and the girls in the other. I slept on the floor with a flat sheet. On second thought I don’t think I slept at all because I was too hyped.

So we get to Kemper Arena pretty early on Saturday and the atmosphere is wild. It’s Arkansas vs Memphis and Kansas vs Virginia. Every school had tons of fans there. The wildest of them all were Kansas fans. We had our Razorback gear on and every time a Kansas fan would walk by they would shout out “rock chalk”. At first it was kind of cool but after a while it started to wear on me and Thomas. I think Thomas was around 14 or 15 at the time. So about the tenth time someone yelled out rock chalk, Thomas yells back “Rock Chalk Jayhawk F KU!”. Man I was rolling on the ground and Tyrone was wanting to take his belt off and whoop Thomas.

For the life of me I can’t remember if our tickets let us see both games that day. I’m pretty sure we got to see the Virginia vs Kansas game but can’t swear to it. I do remember us clowning all the Kansas fans after they lost. Thomas was still going in on them with the F KU.

What I remember vividly is the moment we went to find our seats. For all the games I’ve been to I had never sat right behind the bench. I was still a little skeptical if I was really going to be sitting that close. Well ole Elbert wasn’t lying, I was sitting close enough to touch the players on the back. I sat down and just couldn’t believe I was at the sweet 16 basically sitting on the bench with Corliss and crew. So I turn around to see where our crew is headed and let me tell you…I can barely type this without falling out in the floor laughing. It looked like they were walking the stairway to heaven. They walked up those stairs for so long that I lost sight of them for a while. They weren’t 5 rows from the top, not 2 rows from the top but the very last row before you get to the hatch to go on the roof. They had to repel down to get to the bathrooms and concessions.

For just a few minutes I felt kind of bad but I did take one for the team in Harrison. Elbert had told me not to make it obvious that I knew Corliss. I tried, I really did try but once they got in the lay up line I just couldn’t do it. The Memphis team had Lorenzen Wright(RIP), Cedric Henderson, Michael Wilson and a dude named Mingo. Michael Wilson would go on to play for the Globetrotters. Dude had like a 70 inch vertical. These dudes started talking trash during the pregame shootaround.

Corey Beck and Dwight Stewart being from Memphis made the trash talk even more intense. I was talking so much trash to the Memphis guys that I started to get a little fan club around me. This was all during warm ups. I knew almost all the guys on our team. Corliss was in the Omega Psi Phi (Q Dogs) fraternity and I would Dee Jay lots of their parties. Lee Wilson would stand beside my turntables the entire party and wouldn’t let anyone make request, it was hilarious. My bad, I’m getting off subject a little.

When the team comes to the bench before introductions they see me and start cracking up. Up until then Corliss and Scotty didn’t think we would be there. Scotty looks at me and says “boy your a damn fool”! It was a crazy game that end up going to overtime with us pulling it out. I was screaming for and at Corliss the whole game. What was different is that I never called him Corliss, I called him Kojack. I’m not 100% but I’m pretty sure he got that nickname when he was little because he used to wear his hair bald. So I’m screaming Kojack this and Kojack that when a little old lady asked me who is Kojack. I said oh that’s Corliss’s nickname. Our entire section would start yelling for “Kojack” after that.

At halftime Thomas came down from heaven to see me. He wants me to switch seats with him. Let me know when ya’ll quit laughing. I said if you don’t get back to your seat where Elbert told you to be! Thomas you were given the rules before we got here so get on back up there and tell everyone I said hello.

Corliss went on to have 27 and 13 playing almost the entire game. Corliss was an undersized power forward but he was dominant. If he caught it on the block it was automatic. Two power dribbles and you were barbeque chicken. We have never had a player even close to Corliss since. The dude Mingo from Memphis hung like 32 on us. Everything he shot went in and he had no problem telling us all about it. It was a fun game but man was it nerve racking.

After the game everyone in my crew is looking at me like I stole their bike. Complained about their seats all the way back to the hotel. I would remind them what Elbert said but it didn’t seem to help much. Tyrone and our friend June decide they just want to go on back to Russellville because they have to work Monday morning. WORK??? Who cares about work we are about to play Virginia to make it to the final four. So June says if I switch seats with him then we can stay. June you didn’t drive so I’m not trying to hear it. I look at Tyrone and tell him I’m about to call my Mom and see if she would send me some money for a bus ticket to get back home because I’m not leaving. Thomas says he’s staying with me and he has money for a bus ticket. Tyrone starts laughing and says “you know good and well we aren’t leaving”. I gave June a big hug and told him his seat wasn’t all that bad, we had a good laugh.

We would go on to beat Virginia and I was acting a complete fool the entire game. I kept looking up at my crew and June kept flipping me off. He came down at half and I gave him the same speech I gave Thomas. After we cut down those nets it was a complete blur for a while. I was light headed and seeing spots. We hung around Kemper arena for a while celebrating with a bunch of hog fans we didn’t know. I told a rowdy group of young hog fans who Tyrone was and it was Katy bar the door. Tyrone became an instant celebrity. When we got back to the Grizwald van I was exhausted. Because I got the good seat I was told I had to drive the entire way back to Russellville. One of the best drives I’ve ever had. I lost my Dad in 1990 and Tyrone would become the closet thing I ever had to a Dad after that. He talked to me most of the way back about life and what I should be doing to get myself together. I wanted to talk about the game but he wanted to talk about life…come on UNC we are going to the final four…lol

Besides marrying my second wife and having kids this was the best time of my life. Corliss knew how much of a hog fan I was and he made sure I got to enjoy it for 3 years. He never told me no when I needed tickets. When he didn’t have tickets he would sneak me and whoever was with me in through the player entrance. He took me to Nolan’s house for lunch and after ever home game we would go to an Italian joint in Fayetteville for a spread fit for a king. He made sure all his teammates knew who I was. I loved those dudes just for putting up with me. About ten years ago my wife and I are in park plaza mall when I hear someone yelling my name. I look back and the guy is chasing us. It was no other than Al Dillard. I could not believe he remembered me. Al was the coolest dude.

Tyrone Williamson would go on to become the first black mayor of Russellville. He’s who taught Corliss how to play basketball in grade school. He spent many hours with Corliss teaching him the game. Tyrone is truly one of a kind. He is suffering from dementia now and its painful to watch. I try to hold on to the good times we had because we had many.

I’m going to post two pictures(hopefully it works). One is Corliss, his first cousin, Noble, who is my best friend and myself. This was shortly after Corliss got drafted but there was lockout. We were at Grandma Williamson’s house in Russellville. I was wearing a Bucks hat because Todd Day was playing there. Loved me some Todd Day.

The other pic was taken a few months ago at Grandma Williamson’s house also. It was the ten year anniversary of her passing away. I’m not hard to find because I’m the only Caucasian in the photo. The man in the blue shirt to my left is my Uncle Tyrone. The young lady in front of me is Tyrone’s daughter and his son is front row with the black and pink shirt. My best friend, Noble, is to the left of Corliss and Corliss’s son that we are recruiting is to the right of Corliss. Creed was like 6’5 in third grade.

When they got ready to take the pic I was sitting off to the side talking with someone. They said they wanted all of Grandma’s kids, grand kids and great grand kids in the picture. They refused to take the pic until I got over there. This is the kind of people the Williamson’s are. Not to get sappy but I love them dearly. I hope this story was fun to read. It was sure fun to write it and relive it.

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Thanks for sharing. Your memories were fun to read.

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Very welcome!

Great read. You were fortunate that a great family like the Williamson’s “made you a part of their family”. But, you know what, they were lucky too, to have you. You’ve paid your good fortune with the Williamson family back 10 fold with the coaching and the time you’ve spent helping the young boys on your basketball teams these past years.

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And that would be Mingo Johnson. He’s still PO’d about that game to this day. I think this is a pay site but I will link anyway.

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Thank you so much Harley! Lots of that I learned from them. I really appreciate the kind words.

What a great story Razorblack. Thanks for sharing it with our HI family. And thanks for all you’ve done for the kids you coached and mentored.

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Great story, Jeff. Those days were the best times of my life, and those players and coaches are still friends of mine to this day. Coach Richardson said we would always be family, and we are. Look forward to having a beer with you soon. Go Hogs!

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Thanks LD! Thank you for always encouraging me!

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Yes sir Jeremy! As much fun as I had I can’t imagine the ride you had!

Nolan was always so nice to my friends and me. His wife made the best burger!

Miss Rose is a Razorback treasure. We were all her children, and Coach had to be nice when she was around, lol. They didn’t call him “The Bear” for nothing. Unfortunately her health has been failing for years.

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Aloha,

What an incredible, entertaining, emotional and inspiring story. Awesome! Agree with Wiz, we need a separate Board for these impactful stories.

GHG!

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Although I rarely contribute, I have been reading posts on this board for several years. Your 2 part series is my all-time favorite post on this board. I also enjoyed the photographs. When reading your Harrison experience, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry (maybe both). Thanks for sharing.

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Thank you Launch! We have laughed for years about the stop in Harrison.

I spent a good deal of time in Harrison in the late 80’s. I don’t blame your family for laying down in the van.

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That was awesome and sure brings back memories of the best times in Razorback basketball. A truly touching and powerful event you have brought to life for most of us that were not blessed to be there live.

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Incredible story Razor and definitely one for the ages. I only know you on this board and always impressed by your awesome stories of changing lives of a lot of youngsters. I know you may not have changed them all for the better, or maybe you have. We know that takes hard work and dedication.
But I now know what must have inspired you in that regard.
Thanks again for a wonderful story and the trip down memory lane. Like a tribute to the best basketball team in Hog history as well.
Cheers Buddy.

Awesome story! Felt like I was with you every step of the way. Thanks for sharing and WPS!

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Fantastic.

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You didn’t tell us you were 6’8!

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