At the end of a long, tiring practice, Kansas State men’s basketball coach Jack Hartman would bring his team together and had them work on a final discipline.
“The delay game, our version of the Four Corners,” former Wildcats star Rolando Blackman said. “We’d practice it so many times, and everybody would be frustrated because it always came at the end of a hard practice and we never seemed to use it.”
But there was this one time…
Blackman’s game-winning shot against top-ranked Oregon State to win an NCAA Tournament second-round game in 1981 remains perhaps the biggest bucket in K-State hoops history, depicted on the cover of the next week’s Sports Illustrated.
The shot didn’t immortalize Blackman. He was already a star, a two-time All-American, three-time All-Big Eight guard and 1980 Big Eight player of the year. But what a moment.
“It was great execution, everybody did their job,” Blackman said. “My job was to the hit the shot.”
Friday, Blackman’s job will be to remember that and the other highlights from a terrific career that will be saluted with his induction in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
Blackman will enter with seven others. The players are North Carolina’s Charlie Scott, Long Beach State’s Ed Ratleff and Indiana’s Quinn Buckner, along with Ohio State’s John Havlicek, who has also been enshrined in the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Three coaches will enter: Lou Henson of Illinois, New Mexico State and Hardin-Simmons, Dayton’s Don Donoher and Zip Gayles, who coached Langston in Oklahoma to National Negro championships in basketball and football.
Also part of the ceremony at Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland are members of previous classes as part of a 10th anniversary celebration. Among them are Oscar Robertson, Ralph Sampson, Xavier McDaniel and Phil Ford.
“What a tremendous honor,” Blackman said. “When I got the call I thought about my family and everybody who helped me along the way. There are so many people in that village.”
There were many villages for Blackman, who was born in Panama and moved to Brooklyn on a student visa when he was 8 to live with his grandmother. He watched the evening news every night, smoothing his accent by mimicking newsman Walter Cronkite.
Blackman played soccer for a couple of years before picking up a basketball. When he did, Blackman grew into his new favorite sport and became a standout at Grady Vocational High.
A Kansas State assistant, Mark Reiner, was a Brooklyn native who created a pipeline of East Coast talent to Manhattan. Blackman arrived and loved what he saw.
“It reminded me of Panama, green, green all over the place,” Blackman said. “And the people were so friendly. I felt at home there.”
He also liked Hartman, who had coached former New York Knicks star guard Walt Frazier at Southern Illinois and had molded one of the Big Eight’s great backcourts in the mid-70s with Chuckie Williams and Mike Evans.
Blackman started as a freshman and the accolades started pouring in. Blackman was as proud for being chosen three-time Big Eight defensive player of the year as any of them.
“Jack was very proud of me for that,” Blackman said.
Nothing made him or K-State fans happier than the shot in the NCAA Tournament. Oregon State had been ranked first or second in the final 10 weeks of the season and was the top seed in the West. K-State was the No. 8 seed and defeated San Francisco in the first round.
The tight contest with the Beavers was tied 48-48 with three minutes remaining and, in the pre-shot clock era, not much happened until the final 11 seconds, when K-State made its move.
“We snapped to it,” Blackman said. “We knew it like the back of our hands. I ended up taking what was a normal shot, exactly like we practiced it.”
Two seconds, one second. Game over.
A wonderful career punctuated.