Last week, after publishing my column on Clinton Ransey, I received an e-mail from Ken Kytle, the son of former Cleveland State (or Fenn College, as it was called prior to 1964) basketball player Weldon Kytle. He had thanked me for mentioning his father in the piece, as I had mentioned him as a former player worthy of having his number retired.
The message had also contained some additional information on the elder Kytle that I hadn’t originally known. This included his active involvement in the Athletic Alumni Association, as well as being in attendance for parts of the interviewing process that eventually brought the Vikings Kevin Mackey.
After reading this, it made me openly wonder how much I really knew about the history of Cleveland State basketball, and it really made me think about how much the fans knew as well.
This is of particular importance this week, of all weeks, since it is Homecoming Week at CSU, which has always included events for alumni to keep in touch with their alma mater.
However, the other reason I saw some importance in this is because prior to Homecoming Week, head coach Gary Waters had met with members of the student body in an effort to improve student attendance to basketball games. The concept isn’t new as coaches in the past, including Rollie Massimino, have held similar pow-wows.
With these two things in mind, I realize that given its past, there may not be much connection between the basketball team, students and alumni. If there is, usually only a handful of memories come to mind, most notably the 1985-86 Sweet Sixteen team, the 2008-09 squad that beat Wake Forest handily, and Norris Cole getting drafted by the Miami Heat in 2011. Cole, of course, would be the freshest memory considering his number was retired this year.
But what about the rest of the history of Cleveland State and Fenn College? The memories of those in-between tournament runs, or even prior to those feats, are either terribly faded or nearly wiped from existence.
Kytle is a perfect example of this historical amnesia as his accomplishments, including his lofty rebounding numbers and scoring, took place more than 50 years ago. And it came at a time when the Foxes (Fenn’s mascot) would be lucky to crack .500. He will always the first player to ever be drafted by the NBA, having been selected in the 11th round by the St. Louis Hawks in 1965.
Then there’s Franklin Edwards, the first Viking to have his number retired. He was the first CSU player to be drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft when he was selected 22nd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. He was actually one of two first-round picks from CSU in consecutive years, as Darren Tillis was taken by the Celtics in 1982. Edwards was the second Viking selected in 1981, with Paul Roba going to the Cavaliers in the ninth round.
David Kyle has the unique distinction of being the only Cleveland State player to be drafted twice; once in the seventh round by Boston in 1976, then in the sixth round by Milwaukee in 1977. Kyle eventually went in another direction, becoming a highly accomplished photographer.
Beyond the draft picks, a number of former Vikings at the end of the bench went on to prominence as well. The best example is Martin Sweeney, who followed in the CSU footsteps of older brother Michael Sweeney, who played from 1979 to 1982. You probably know the younger Sweeney better as the former president of Cleveland City Council and currently a state representative in the Ohio Legislature.
You may also be very familiar with the work of Greg Vlosich of GV Artwork and Design, the well-known maker of t-shirts. What you may not know is that Vlosich is a former CSU walk-on as well.
In case you were wondering why I’m mentioning them, the Sweeneys and Vlosich will be on hand for the annual alumni basketball game this weekend, along with former Vikings Theo Dixon, a 2001 first-team and 2002 second-team All-Horizon League player and Kenny Robertson, who was a second-team All-Mid-Continent Conference selection in 1990 and set a then-NCAA record with 341 steals. All of them will be joined by some more familiar names from the Waters era, including Sebastian Douglas, Devon Long and Tim Kamczyc.
This stroll down Memory Lane, of course, is to remind students, alumni and fans alike that basketball was played at Cleveland State for the 1986 NCAA Tournament run and in the time between then and when Waters arrived. Much of that tends to get lost due to the tendency of those who went to CSU to forget.
But sometimes it does bear repeating, because the history of the team, as any good Cleveland fan knows, is sometimes just as important as what transpires in the present. Just ask the Browns.
Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.
Image via CSUVikings.com