Drawing From The Past

Although Ohio State was unable to pull out a victory on Sunday against Indiana, fans were treated to a reunion of the program's 1968 Final Four squad. The bond between teammates remains strong forty years later, and that could be an important lesson for this year's team.

Those who stay will be champions, both on and off the court.

So went the message delivered by the team captain from Ohio State's 1968 Final Four squad, a team that captured the attention of its fans by putting together a remarkable run through the tournament that fell just short of a national championship. With each member of that team represented for a pregame ceremony at Value City Arena prior to OSU's game against Indiana on Sunday, the weekend offered the former Buckeyes a chance to reflect on where they had been and what their OSU experiences meant to them.

Although he acknowledged that it was a different era, captain Bill Hosket said he could not have imagined leaving school early for any reason.

"Had I been healthy enough or had the opportunity to leave early, I don't think I would have done it," he said. "But we didn't have those circumstances back then. I didn't know if I was even going to go after my senior year because you'd read one magazine where you're a can't-miss prospect and in the next one you weren't mentioned because of your knee or something. You didn't know. It was totally different then."

While the team was celebrating the 40th anniversary of its Final Four appearance, it marked at least the second time members of the squad had gotten together since the tournament. The last time came 15 years ago, when the team was honored on its 25th anniversary.

Like the last time, all the players assembled for a dinner with their wives. Each player had a chance to stand up and give a speech, and just like in 1993 it was surprising which players had the most to say.

"Last night at our get-together, some of the guys that maybe had not played as much as the others got up and gave absolutely great speeches," said Denny Meadors, a guard on that year's team. "A couple of them even teared up when they were talking."

For that, Hosket said the Buckeyes have former head coach Fred Taylor to thank. The guys who played the least spoke the most about how much they valued their time in the Scarlet and Gray.

Even 40 years later, the bonds that come with being teammates was evident in the back-and-forth between Hosket and Meadors. According to Hosket, it is Meadors that takes credit for making Hosket an All-American.

"I've met people continually that say, ‘I met Denny Meadors and he told me to tell you that he's the guy that made you an All-American,' " Hosket said. "He tells that story constantly. Strangers have told me that.

"We went to a party at his home a couple of years ago. He had a bunch of business clients coming and a lot of people from different areas. There was a big sign in the front yard across his bushes: ‘Welcome to the home of the guard that made Bill Hosket an All-American.' That's just Dennis. He's like the rush chairman that's still the rush chairman."

Hosket's counter? That Meadors made him a better rebounder by missing so many shots – a statement backed up by Meadors.

"Coach Taylor told me to miss shots on purpose to get his rebounding average up and I did a pretty good job at it," he said with a laugh. "I made him an All-American too. In fact, he gave me some of his signing bonus with the Knicks."

While the latter part of that statement might have been stretching the truth a bit, both players expressed their disappointment in the current system of college basketball regarding player eligibility. With players now able to head to the NBA after just one season, both Hosket and Meadors expressed how much they would like to see players stick around for a multitude of reasons.

In addition, Hosket said he feels this year's team is struggling to live up to the expectations placed upon it by last year's squad, which advanced to the national championship game before being downed by Florida. It was similar to how he felt when he arrived at OSU, Hosket said, just a few years after the 1959-60 Buckeye team captured a national championship.

"We came in a period where not too much further back they had won the Big Ten five straight times here and you felt like you had to duplicate what (Jerry) Lucas and (John) Havlicek and (others) had done before you really stood out in your coach's eyes, until you realized you had to become your own identity," he said. "That's probably why we got good our senior year was because we realized we just had to be ourselves and be what we were, not try to be something that we're not. You can't put a timetable on that psychologically."

Take heart, though, Buckeye fans. If Hosket and his teammates could get past the shadow of two of the greatest players in the history of the program, this year's young team could eventually get there as well.

It just might not be this season. And it might hinge on which players return next season.


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