Mears makes Ohio 'Hall'

The late Ray Mears is so closely associated with Tennessee basketball that we sometimes forget he began his coaching career in Ohio. The folks in the Buckeye State haven't forgotten, however.

Mears will be poshumously inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in ceremonies scheduled May 17 at Columbus. Also due for induction that weekend will be former University of Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins (now head man at West Virginia), former Lady Vol superstar Semeka Randall and Al Thrasher, who was one of Mears' first All-Americans when he was coach at Wittenberg University.

Mears compiled an incredible record of 114-22 at Wittenburg, which is located in Springfield, Ohio. He won the Small School national title in 1961, one year before taking the Tennessee reins.

Assuming a Vol program that had gone 4-19 the previous season, Mears posted records of 13-11, 16-8, 20-5 in his first three years on The Hill. In 15 seasons at UT he compiled a 278-112 record and won three Southeastern Conference titles.

Forced by health problems to retire while still in his prime, Mears stepped down with a 21-year record of 399-135 and a .747 winning percentage that ranked second nationally among active coaches.

Mears actually made the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 as a member of Wittenberg's 1961 national championship team, which was inducted en masse. Other members of that initial induction class were Ohio State graduates Bob Knight, Jerry Lucas and John Havlecek.

Semeka Randall, the other member of the 2008 indution class with UT ties, came to the Lady Vols after a standout prep career in Cleveland, Ohio. Combining with Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings to form "The Three Meeks," Randall helped lead the 1997-98 Lady Vols to a 39-0 record and a national title.

A four-year starter, the 5-10 Randall ultimately recorded 1,915 career points and 286 steals, ranking among the Lady Vols' top 10 all-time in each category. She was a two-time Kodak All-American and a two-time member of the USA Junior National Team.

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