Former YSU players inspire current program

Special to Tribune Chronicle / Youngstown State University Former players and other former YSU men’s basketball personnel gathered Saturday in Youngstown.

YOUNGSTOWN — The last thing Albert Crockett thought he’d be doing was stepping inside Youngstown State, let alone putting a foot on the Beeghly Center floor.

Saturday, he and about 35 other former members of the YSU Men’s Basketball program were honored as part of what current YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun and his staff hope to be an annual event.

“To be honest with you, I never thought I’d step foot on that hardwood,” said Crockett, who works for a finance company and coaches AAU basketball in his hometown of Philadelphia. “It was actually a blessing. I was happy they invited us back to see some of my old friends.”

Crockett played for YSU from 1998-2000 and ranks in the top 10 in assists.

He played for the late Dan Peters, the reason he came to YSU.

“He cared about his players, but he was hard on us,” Crockett said. “I can remember a lot of times where he really dug into me. He actually made me a better player and a person. He was hard, but he was sincere. That was the best thing about coach.”

Desmond Harrison, who played from 1997-2001, said he hopes more people come back next year for this event.

He said he even thought most of these former players haven’t seen each other in a long time, it’s still like they are family, a brotherhood.

Harrison, a Toledo native, is a social worker for the Veteran’s Administration, working with homeless veterans.

Harrison feels indebted to Peters for giving him a scholarship when others passed him over. He was sad when he left for Cincinnati to be an assistant with Bob Huggins in 1999.

His favorite year was the 1997-98 season where YSU went 20-9 and made it to the Mid-Continent Conference title game before losing to Valparaiso.

“He will always be in my heart for what he’s done for me and lot of my friends and family,” Harrison said.

He was a top-10 record holder in a couple different categories at YSU, but most will remember the Penguin standout for the delays he took at the free-throw line, even being called for 10-second violations.

“I stopped doing that,” Harrison laughed. “I shoot better when I don’t do that. It’s so mental. I was screwed up.

“Free throws are so mental. You think they’re easy, but sometimes you get … I can’t explain it.”

Brian Radakovich, who was at YSU from 2001-05, lives in Pittsburgh and does consulting for KPMG.

He tries to get up to a couple of games a year.

Radakovich said when he got together with his former teammates this past weekend, it was like he never left.

Calhoun, whose brainchild it was for this reunion weekend, said he’d like some of the former players around Youngstown to mentor some of the current players in the field they are pursuing.

“It’s been great to come back and have a coach who is trying to embrace the past,” Radakovich said. “That’s been great to see. I’ll be involved as they’d like me to be.”

It’s part of the culture YSU is trying bring back, melding the past with the present and future.

“We have some really good guys,” said Calhoun, who was out recruiting on Monday. “We have some of the guys coach (Jerry) Slocum brought in. He did a tremendous job of bring in really good people into the program. That’s how you have to recruit. You want to recruit the individuals and they care about one another.”

Each one of the former members of the program got up and talked to the current YSU team a couple hours prior to the team’s win Saturday against IUPUI.

The message was the same, enjoy your four years at YSU and the memories you make with your teammates.

“Some of them got emotional talking to our guys,” Calhoun said. “It was powerful. It was the best walkthrough we ever had.”

This reunion is something the YSU staff and its former players want to expand on next season.

“It’s a great idea,” Harrison said. “I think we’re going to have more people come back next year.”