Professors moonlight as hoops stars

Jan. 17, 2007


Your professor may be hiding something under his suit and tie. Some students may guess scales, and others would suggest a heart of stone, but what about a Philadelphia 76ers jersey and knee pads?

This is the case for the associate dean of the Honors College Dr. Alden Smith. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11:30 a.m., Smith sheds his business attire and transforms into a basketball player, wearing shorts, a Sixers jersey and yellow knee pads that he has layered under his suit for a quick costume change.

Since 1988, the noon basketball association, or NBA as they call it, has been getting together between classes for a little competition and camaraderie. The group is made up mostly of men who serve as department heads, professors, staff and graduate students, ranging in age from 20 to 60.

"Some of us are in our 50s now and I guess we need to think about retiring. We are having a lot of fun though, so we may not," said Dr. Blake Burleson, the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

"Games are shirts vs. skins, which is always mildly repulsive for students when they see their old profs running topless," Baylor grad student and religion instructor, Chad Hartsock said.

While the most skeptical students may have trouble imagining their professors doing anything outside of plotting their next "multiple-multiple choice" test question, these aren't just a weekly game of horse.

The point of the game is camaraderie and exercise, so some of the conventional house rules of pick-up games are changed to promote these goals, but the games and the participants are very competitive.

In fact, Hartstock said the most entertaining part of the games is the injuries.

"Dr. Alden Smith, who can always be seen sporting his Allen Iverson jersey, shattered several bones in his hand last semester and had to have his hand surgically reconstructed," he said. "I even had my nose broken by Dr. Smith about two years ago,"

Chairman of the philosophy department, Mike Beaty, suffered a more serious injury in one of these games, when he and Burleson were both going after a loose ball. Beaty said Burleson lowered his shoulder and barreled into him, cracking his rib. He finished the game, but his cracked rib punctured his lung in the process.

But of all the injuries, economics professor Jim Henderson takes the cake. During a game, his heart actually stopped beating. The men circled around Henderson to pray, while CPR was performed. By use of a defibrillator, Henderson was brought back to life.

"We call him Lazarus," Smith said.

This frightening experience did not stop Henderson from playing basketball. After surgery, Henderson is back on the court feeling better than ever.

"It's great to have teamwork with these guys from different areas in the campus who you may not interact with in the office. You get to know them in the game," Burleson said.

Although the smell of sweat may burn the nose, playing a good game of basketball with friends has proven to be a refreshing experience for these players.