Five decades after the first Camel men took to the court, nearly two dozen men’s basketball alumni returned to campus Saturday to cheer on today’s Camels in a thrilling double overtime game against Trinity in Connecticut College’s Charles B. Luce Field House. Conn came up short, losing 104 to 94.
The 23 former players, including members of the first team and members of Conn’s historic 1998-99 team, which advanced to the NCAA Division III Championship Final Four, were honored on the court at half time. After the game, the former players and their families gathered with current players for a reception in the College’s Athletic Hall of Fame Room.
“You guys were the trailblazers. You created this, you started this, you were the pioneers,” Head coach Tim Sweeney, who joined Connecticut College in June of 2019, told the members of the earliest teams. He added that each subsequent group of players built on the legacy, eventually taking the team all the way to the Final Four.
“It’s amazing for our guys to be able to see this, feel this and understand what they got by signing up for this. And it’s much more than basketball,” Sweeney said. “I think the past is prologue. It’s an honor to be here, and I feel a great responsibility to uphold many of the traditions. I couldn’t be more excited about where we are going.”
Former Director of Athletics Charles Luce, for whom the College’s field house is named, skyped into the reception. He recalled the early days of the men’s basketball program—“I think we had three different kinds of uniforms, and none of them matched each other”—and remarked on how proud he is to have been a part of building the program into what it is today.
“I think I’m one of the luckiest guys in the whole world,” he said.
Dwayne Stallings ’99, who served as team captain and was the leading scorer for the 1998-99 program that ranked No. 1 in the country and advanced to the Final Four, said he was honored to be a member of the “Camel family.”
“We really are a family—some of the guys I played with, we’ve been friends for over 20 years,” said Stallings, a member of the College’s Board of Trustees and a 2018 inductee into Conn’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
In honor of the program’s 50th anniversary, Stallings and Mizan Ayers ’02, also a member of the 1998-99 team and a Hall of Fame inductee, announced a $50,000 fundraising challenge. Stallings and Ayers will match, dollar for dollar, all gifts made to the Camel Athletics Fund and designated for men’s basketball, up to $25,000.
Director of Athletics and Chair of Physical Education Maureen “Mo” White said the fundraising challenge will help the College work toward the goals outlined in the new Action Plan for Competitive Success. At the reception, White also addressed athletics as a driver of the Connecticut College student experience and a key initiative of the College’s strategic plan, Building on Strength.
“This is an exciting time for Camel athletics,” she said.