It doesn’t take long for the memories to start flowing when you get a couple of old teammates together and that is exactly what happened when Marshall and NBA Legend Hal Greer and his Herd teammate Sonny Allen met with the media.
Greer and Allen are among the over 100 former Thundering Herd basketball players that are back in town this weekend for the finale at the Veterans Memorial Field House, the home of Marshall basketball for 30 years.
“I remember so many years going there in the summer,” said Greer, who grew up in Huntington. “In the summer that was the only place we could go and play. I remember the field house as the biggest place around. We did a good job there. We’ll miss it.”
When the field house opened in 1950 it was the best basketball facility in the state and Allen recalls it quickly became one of the most intimidating places to play.
“It was the only good arena in the state,” said Allen, who played two seasons alongside Greer. “We played in the Mid-America Conference then and they all had old high school gyms with a track around it. Ours was by far the best and the most intimidating because we got more people in there. In the field house the players didn’t sit on the bench, we sat on the front row of the bleachers. The fans sat right behind us with their knees in our backs. Teams coming in had never seen a place like the field house.
Greer’s list of accolades is a mile long. He is 18th on Marshall’s scoring chart with 1,377 points and eighth in rebounding with 765 boards. He was a second round NBA Draft pick of the Syracuse Nationals in 1958 and enjoyed a 15 year career with the same franchise as the Nationals later became the Philadelphia 76ers.
However, just setting foot on the court for The Herd is likely Greer’s biggest accomplishment. Greer was the first African-American to play for a state college in West Virginia.
“I was blessed really because the players I played with realized that basketball is a different game,” Greer said. “Sonny isn’t a black player or white player, he’s a player and that made the difference. In basketball you don’t play up the color line, you’re playing basketball.”
“I enjoyed my four years at Marshall. I enjoyed every minute of it.”