It is one of the best times of the basketball year, and when you think Jacksonville University Alumni and basketball, there is one letter and one mode of transportation that comes to mind:
A – Train!!!
NBA legend Artis Gilmore’s on-court résumé is widely known and celebrated, but it is his works off-court, especially as an ambassador for his alma mater, that truly makes us proud. He consistently puts forth an effort to connect with his fellow alumni and participate in events and functions on behalf of the school. No better example of this was his trip to Los Angeles, where he took part in some JU events while attending NBA All-Star Weekend, as well as traveling with the Dolphin team to the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
Artis took time to give The Dolphin Network some exclusive comments to share with the JU alumni about his past several weeks of travel, his thoughts on All-Star Weekend, the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament outcome, and some views on basketball in general (and even a couple of predictions):
On traveling to Los Angeles for NBA All-Star Weekend:
|Artis with JU Alum (and Amazing Race winner) Alex Boylan in L.A.|
Obviously, the All-Star Game is a little different these days as the game has grown in popularity. I played in an All-Star game in L.A. in 1983 though, and there is just nothing like the experience of playing in Los Angeles. My fondest memory of it was actually Marvin Gaye singing the national anthem. I remember that everyone was in awe about that experience.
It was great catching up with my former colleagues and getting to meet some of the new players. One thing that I always notice is the shape these athletes are in. The players today are finely tuned machines.
The other great part of the weekend was getting to visit and meet some JU alumni on the west coast. It always makes me proud to see fellow Dolphins across the country doing well.
On the Slam Dunk Contest and how it has changed:
This year’s dunk contest – unlike the contests of the past couple years – I thought was really enjoyable. There were a lot of impressive, creative dunks (and I still can’t believe the Clippers let Griffin jump over a car).
This event has truly grown over the years. Many people may remember that I was in the very first dunk contest in 1976 with great players like George Gervin, David Thompson (who we expected to win because Denver was his city) and Dr. J (who ended up being the winner). What is forgotten though is that I was the FIRST player in the FIRST dunk contest. While we all knew how to dunk, we were all trying to figure out exactly what we should be doing and what they were expecting from us. I remember there were officials there giving advice like, “try starting from over there.”
Additionally, unlike today, I think there were only two cameras filming it. They weren’t replaying the dunk in slow motion from all different angles…in HD. Plus, of the two cameras, one of them was way up in the rafters. If it weren’t for my hair, I don’t think anyone would have known it was me.
On the Atlantic Sun Tournament:
Obviously, we were disappointed about the outcome in Macon, and UNF being the one to beat us didn’t help . However, the Belmont team that won it is very good, and has a great shot in their first round match-up against Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament. It will be a battle of two contrasting styles with the up-tempo game of Belmont vs. the ball control game of Wisconsin. Obviously, I will be pulling for Belmont because anytime an Atlantic Sun team does well, it reflects positively on the entire conference.
On the NCAA Tournament:
Right now, if I had to pick the Final Four teams, I would have to go with the four #1 seeds: Kansas, Pittsburgh, Duke and Ohio State. From there, I’m not sure what will happen. I know picking all the top seeds isn’t exciting, and I am sure there will be some upsets along the way and dark horses that come out of nowhere, but based on what I have seen, these four teams, who have been playing well all year, are going to end up on top.