The O’Connell Buccaneers of old caught up with the O’Connell Buccaneers of today on Saturday — on and off the basketball court alike.
On court, the younger Bucs were taught a thing or two in a much expected 71-53 exes win.
But it was off court where today’s players learned even more important lessons from their elders about O’Connell now and thereafter.
“We want to teach the kids about family,” said Donald Brooks, Class of 2003. “We were a close-knit group back then. I remember the intimacy of the school, where everybody knew everybody.
“It is really our responsibility as alumni to come back and help.”
Seventeen former student-athletes, ranging from the Class of ‘74, the first of seniors to attend O’Connell all six years, through the Class of ‘09 dazzled packed Barbara Kleinecke Gymnasium with their return-to-the-past prowess, Larry Lyons, Class of ‘95, leading the way with a game-high 22 points.
“It feels good to be back,” said Lyons, who scored 16 of his total in the first half. “It also means a lot. This is where I was able to make a name for myself, and that carried into adulthood.
“The things I learned here at O’Connell are things I try to instill in my own kids.”
Delvin Bennett teamed up with fellow ‘03 graduate Brooks to put on the third annual get-together.
“A lot of people came out tonight to support the athletic program,” Bennett said. “It’s an awesome feeling and a great turnout. We definitely exceeded our goal (of $1,000).”
One of the former players to go on and play both college and professional basketball was Terrell Petteway, Class of ‘99, an all-Southland Conference standout at Lamar University.
“It’s really good for the old guys to come back and show what they’ve still got,” said Petteway, who later played overseas for the Sheffield Sharks. “Hopefully we can do this for years to come.
“What I remember most is playing with Reggie Paul (Class of ‘99) and all the other guys, the gym packed all the time. Coach (Michael) Kleinecke had us playing fun basketball.
“I credit my dad (Terry Petteway) and coach Kleinecke for everything about my game. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have gotten a scholarship to Lamar.”
Derek Martin, Class of ‘91, would have been on the winning side either way, considering he was playing for the exes and also coaches the current boys team, a role he relinquished Saturday to head football coach Tim Cotton.
“Except for about five of the guys, I coached everybody on this (exes) team,” said Martin, who is also in his first year as the school’s athletic director. “First off, it’s good to be back coaching at O’Connell. It was an opportunity too hard to pass up. The support has been great.
“And, tonight, everybody who put this fundraiser together for the athletic program, from Katherine Hogan (director of development and alumni relations) to Donald and Delvin, the turnout’s been great.”
But, again, there was more to the game than just the final score.
“Tonight gives our current kids the chance to see what it means to be an alum,” Martin said. “The guys are having fun with the kids, letting them know what it means to be a Buc.”
In fact, the exes also met with the current players after the game, sharing their personal sentiments one more time.
“It left an impression on everybody,” Martin said. “O’Connell has a lot of tradition, and that’s what we want to build on.”