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I remember the night I fell in love with March Madness.
I was 12. My dad scored tickets for the 1962 NCAA men’s championship game in Louisville. On a Saturday in March we made the 50-mile drive to Freedom Hall.
I was blown away, not just by the drama on the court, but also the passion in the sold-out crowd of 18,449.
On the ride home, I couldn’t have told you that the most outstanding player that night was from Knoxville. Nor could I have guessed I’d spend the bulk of my adult life in Knoxville.
Forgive my long-winded introduction to today’s topic:
Knoxville-produced basketball talent that has played in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Paul Hogue is the place to start.
Hogue was a 1958 grad of Austin High School. Like the other Black players of his era, he had to go north to a program already integrated. Hometown Tennessee didn’t do so until 1971-72.
The 6-foot-9 Hogue chose the University of Cincinnati. In 1961, Hogue, a junior, and the Bearcats beat vaunted Ohio State in the championship game.
A year later, with me in attendance, Hogue was named the Final Four’s Most Valuable Player as Cincinnati again bested Ohio State in the title game, 71-59. Hogue had 22 points and 19 rebounds, overshadowing Ohio State All-American and future NBA star Jerry Lucas.
Hogue died in 2009. Paul Hogue Park sits at the corner of Chestnut and Wilson in East Knoxville.
I’m going to step over the Blount County line and include Maryville’s Lee Humphrey in this exercise.
Humphrey, like Hogue, was a key cog in back-to-back national champions. He helped Florida cut down the nets in 2006 and 2007. In 15 career NCAA tournament games, Humphrey hit a sizzling 46.1 percent of his 3-point shots.
One other local ace – that I know of – appeared in and won a national championship game. Chris Gettelfinger was a reserve on Kentucky’s 1978 champions.
Now, the tournament as a whole. Knox Countians have shown up all around the bracket. This year, UNC-Asheville went dancing with Drew Pember and Trent Stephney from Bearden and Tajion Jones of Oak Ridge. Catholic’s B.J. Edwards is the latest local to make a tournament with the Vols.
Please don’t take the following as a definitive list of Knoxvillians who have broken a sweat in the tourney. I rounded up as many names as my research could find.
Let’s start with Tennessee: Bert Bertelkamp played in three tournaments, one with Ray Mears and two with Don DeVoe. Steven Pearl was on four tournament teams coached by his dad.
The stars of UT’s first NCAA appearance in 1967 were Fulton High’s Ron Widby and Bill Justus. The Karns duo of Doug Roth and Travis Henry started the 1989 game.
Jerald Hyatt and Rob Jones played in early ‘80s games, Jordan Bowden in 2018 and ’19.
Locals Ben Bosse, Galen Campbell and Brandon Lopez show up in NCAA box scores for UT. Pember’s final minute as a Vol before transferring was in the 2021 tournament.
Fred Jenkins never made the Dance as a Vol, but his son Blake, from Bearden, played in three with Belmont, 2011-12-13. Kent Hollenbeck played for Kentucky’s 1970 and ’71 teams.
Alcoa’s Wade Houston didn’t get UT to the tournament as a head coach but played for Louisville in the 1964 bracket.
A few more: Elston Turner for Ole Miss in 1981; John Johnson for Maryland in the 1980s; Mark Poag for Old Dominion in ’97; Kyle Cruze for Holy Cross in ’07; James Gallman for MTSU in ’13; Grant Ledford for Chattanooga in ’22; Burton Sampson for Belmont in ’15; Nathan Parker for Wofford in '11.
Apologies to those I missed.
Mike Strange is a former writer for the News Sentinel. He currently writes a weekly sports column for Shopper News.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Paul Hogue leads Knoxville players at March Madness