Historic team comes to Moby

Feb 202005
Authors: Jon Pilsner

Each man walked slowly onto the court one by one, the toll of time and old age having taken its effect on them.

They were not the young men they had been when they first stepped foot on the basketball court of Colorado A&M, members of an Aggies basketball team that would become a part of CSU basketball history

But, as each one walked in front of the crowd in the lights on the wooden floor, a gleam and glimmer in their eyes could be seen, and the spirits of the young men who had played basketball were resurrected.

Members of the 1954 Colorado A&M Aggies men's basketball team, the first team in school history to make the NCAA Tournament, were honored Saturday night at halftime of the CSU men's basketball game against San Diego State.

The Aggies made the tournament by winning the Skyline Conference with 22-7 record.

"I really can't explain how exciting this event is," said Bob Cates, a former player who helped organize the event. "It's just incredible for us."

Bill Bartram, a forward on the team, said basketball is a much different game today than it was when he played.

"It's changed so much. We didn't have the weight rooms. We all had jobs to stay in school. It was a different atmosphere," Bartram said. "School was most important, but we had fun."

Cates said the team had never been recognized. He, along with the athletic department, helped put the event together and reunite the players.

Although each has moved on in life, Cates said that the players still keep in touch.

"Some of us live around here, and we see each other every so often," Cates said. "We've always kept up on what the others are doing."

Of the 12 players who played on the team, 10 members were honored. One, Leonard Gregory, was unable to make it because of an injury. Two others are deceased: head coach Bill Strannigan and player Gary Hibbard.

As each player walked to center court, the crowd gave a cheer. The 3,177 fans rose to their feet and applauded the group of men that had played before many of them had been born.

Off the court, there were smiles and handshakes, and a few teary eyes.

"We appreciate so much what CSU has done for us," Cates said. "It's just wonderful."

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