WKU legends honored at Saturday’s games

Former WKU basketball player Dennis Felton hugs president Gary Ransdell after being recognized as a member of the all Diddle team during the half-time of mens basketball game against Arkansas State.

Lucas Aulbach

The past met the present at Diddle Arena Saturday night.

To honor 50 years of basketball in Diddle Arena, WKU recognized members of the 50th anniversary “All-Diddle Arena Team” at halftime of both games during the men’s and women’s basketball double-header.

Topper fans had the opportunity last year to vote online for their favorite players from the past 50 years, and 10 former players were chosen for each team. The resulting rosters were announced on Jan. 3 and were recognized Saturday in front of season-high crowds at both games.

The results featured an interesting mix of past and recent WKU greats.

The parity in time between some of the players showed in the two top vote-getters on each roster.

Former WKU guard and current Boston Celtic Courtney Lee, who received the most votes of anyone on the men’s team, played at WKU from 2005-08.

On the other hand, the former Lady Topper who received the most votes, guard Clemette Haskins, played at Diddle Arena from 1984-87.

Scheduling conflicts and professional basketball schedules prevented some former WKU players from returning to be recognized.

Former center Jim McDaniels, forward Clarence Glover and forward Wayne Chapman were the only members of the men’s team who could make it, while seven former Lady Toppers — guard Brenda Chapman, forward Dominique Duck, forward ShaRae Mansfield, forward Lillie Mason, guard Tiffany Porter-Talbert, guard Natalie Powers and guard Kami Thomas — were recognized.

Mansfield had to excuse herself from the locker room at halftime to be recognized — she currently serves as an assistant coach for the Lady Toppers.

She said she hopes this recognition will inspire the Lady Toppers to improve.

“I’ve walked in their shoes, and I feel like I have a lot of knowledge to help the girls with,” Mansfield said. “They ask questions all the time, and it makes me feel good that they kind of look at me as their role model.”

Lady Topper coach Michelle Clark-Heard said her team benefitted from meeting some former hardwood legends of the school.

She said the former players were able to talk to some current Lady Toppers after the ceremony before the second half of the game started.

“That means a lot because they set the foundation for this program and where we’re at,” Heard said. “I take my hat off to those 10 young ladies and 10 women who had the opportunity to be honored tonight.”

WKU has had a formidable 50 years inside Diddle Arena, which hosted its first game Dec. 7, 1963.

The Toppers have put together a 532-149 record in the 50 years since. The Lady Toppers, who have played in the arena for 40 years, have a 440-103 all-time record at home.

Despite the in-house support from former WKU greats, the men’s and women’s teams could not make the special night more significant. Both teams fell in games against Arkansas State.

Sophomore forward T.J. Price said the Toppers tried to focus more on the game than the emotions that come with playing in front of former WKU greats.

“It’s good for them to be here for us, but once the ball goes up it’s pretty much just playing back to ourselves and no pressure is on us,” Price said. “We just go out there and play basketball like how we know we can.”