Former CWRU men’s basketball standouts offer their insights on tonight’s historic NCAA Division III Sweet 16 appearance
For the last 14 years, Arnold Huffman has hosted the Case Western Reserve University men’s basketball coaches and players for dinner when they are in Atlanta, where he now lives, to play Emory University.
But this weekend, Huffman, shooting guard on the 1989-93 Spartans teams, and a group of his former teammates and friends are coming to them.
“We’re all coming Friday—my entire freshman and graduating class [of teammates],” Huffman said. “And some [former] roommates are coming—more than 25 people from Florida, Texas, Connecticut. Three of us from Atlanta. So we’re storming Horsburgh [Gymnasium].”
They’re returning to campus to witness history—being written in thrilling fashion with each step.
In their first trip to the NCAA’s Division III Championship Tournament last weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the Spartans (20-6) won both games—the first in overtime and the second, against No. 3-ranked UW-Oshkosh, in the closing seconds.
Next up for sixth-year head coach Todd McGuinness’ team: Friday, March 11, at 8 p.m. against No. 6 University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (27-2) in the sectional semifinals at CWRU’s Horsburgh Gymnasium in the Veale Convocation, Recreation and Athletic Center.
It’s celebrated in college basketball as making the Sweet 16.
The winner advances to the national quarterfinal at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 12, also at Horsburgh.
Approaching what may be the biggest game some of the Spartans will ever play (with hopefully still more to come), we asked some of Case Western Reserve’s standout men’s basketball alumni about their most important game and what advice they wish someone had given them in the lead-up.
Mark Termini (WRC ’78)
1974-78 basketball career: Guard; team captain as junior and senior; inducted into Spartan Club Hall of Fame in 1994; 1,161 career points, averaged 21.7 points per game senior year (Presidents’ Athletic Conference Scoring Leader); top 10 all-time in field goals made (493), free throw percentage (.854), assists (258)
Now: Attorney and prominent sports agent living in Northeast Ohio
Biggest game: “My biggest games were as a freshman beating John Carroll in the first-ever college game at the then-brand-new Richfield Coliseum, and upsetting nationally ranked teams Washington and Lee on the road and Carnegie Mellon at home my senior year.
Advice: ”I wish someone would have advised me to pay more attention to and value more highly my relationships with my CWRU varsity basketball teammates. Because, for DIII players, those teammates will share your last experiences in high-level basketball competition. And when your final season with the Spartans concludes, you probably won’t see those guys again, but the experiences will remain memorable and the relationships you forged will remain one-of-a-kind.”
Ron Jezerinac (CWR ’93)
1989-93 basketball career: 902 career points; top 10 all-time in free throws attempted (346) and made (236)
Now: President of the Jezerinac Group, a structural engineering company in West Palm Beach, Florida
Biggest game: “I believe the biggest win in my four years was against New York University at home in 1993. They were No. 6 in the country at the time. I don’t think that’s been surpassed until this 2022 year. They tied the game with four or five seconds left in overtime. We had to go the length of the court. Assistant Coach Jon Hall drew up a great play. We executed it perfectly and won on a three-point buzzer-beater from the top of the key. It was the best feeling of my life up to that point. I hope to be 100 years old one day and still feel a little bit of that feeling.”
Advice: “I wish someone would have told me to slow down a little bit. Survey our team and the other team more. Think your way through the game a little more. What are they good at, what are they not. What are you having trouble doing, and how can you get it done another way. More cognizance, less emotion, especially as the games wear on.”
Tom Summers (CWR ’12)
2008-12 basketball career: Power forward; 1,021 career points; top 10 all-time in field goal percentage (.518), rebounds (722), average rebounds per game (7.5), games started (92) and minutes played (2,412)
Now: An attorney living in Pittsburgh
Biggest game: “Sophomore year we played Washington University (in St. Louis), which was ranked No. 1 in the country at the time. It was at Wash U. and we were on a four-game winning streak at the time. I think we lost by three, 65-62, at the buzzer. Bryan Erce shot a three-pointer and just missed. It hit the back of the rim, which would have sent it into overtime. Unfortunately, that was one of the biggest games in my career. We were never lucky enough to go on a magical run like this year’s team!”
Advice: “You just have to step back a little bit and enjoy the ride. Enjoy the process and your teammates, they’re some of your closest friends. Those are the kind of games you remember forever.”
T.J. Duckett (CWR ’18, LAW ’21)
2014-18 basketball career: Forward-center; 827 career points; top 10 all-time in field goal percentage (.567), free throws attempted (313), rebounds (619), average rebounds per game (7.2)
Now: Graduated from CWRU School of Law in May; works as a law clerk and lives in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood
Biggest game: “My senior year we were playing Emory, ranked No. 3 at the time. We had a three-[pointer] to win it at the very end and it just hit the back rim. The sense of finality of it all and knowing I would never play competitively at this level again just upped the stakes for me personally. We played our hearts our but came up a little short. The stakes were high, and I was just thinking it was about to come to an end soon.”
Advice: “The best advice is just to live in the moment. When you’re a younger player, maybe freshman and sophomore, it just seems like you have forever in front of you. But it’s not the case. Just live in the moment and enjoy every second because once it’s over, you’ll miss it more than anything.”
Arnold Huffman (CWR ’93)
1989-93 basketball career: Shooting guard
Now: Founder and CEO of Digital Yalo!, a full-service design and marketing agency in Atlanta
Biggest game: “Probably the biggest was our sophomore year (1990-91) against Wittenberg. They were ranked in the top 10. We took them down to the wire but lost down in the stretch and lost 81-75 in overtime. I had one of my biggest games as well which is why I remember it; I feel like I had 26 (points). And it was at home. Me and my buddies (former teammates) were just talking about it a couple of weeks ago.”
Advice: “Once you’re done, you don’t realize what you have had an opportunity to be a part of. Leave it all on the court and you won’t have any regrets. If you lose it will hurt but you’ll know that you played to the best of your ability. If you do that you can’t hang your head afterwards. You’ll give your best and everybody will be proud of you.”