By ANDREW TERRY
Amarillo College sports alumni are excited about the return of sports not only for the benefits to students, but also for the community.
“Frankly, I doubt I would have a college degree had it not been for the opportunity to play basketball here at AC,” Denese Skinner, vice president of student affairs, said.
Skinner said she was deciding between coming to AC or going to a visual arts institute, but chose AC because of the scholarship opportunities for athletes.
“Some of my most fond memories center around the friendships I developed with my teammates and the shared experiences we had driving all over the southwest in a van to play basketball,” Skinner said.
Skinner said the return of sports will benefit the entire community. “Athletics creates a campus and community buzz that brings an added layer of energy and excitement,” she said.
The previous president of Amarillo College, Dr. Paul Matney, said that he remembered when AC voted to get rid of men’s and women’s basketball in the 80s, and he’s pleased that sports are coming back.
“I agree with those who believe the return of AC athletics will benefit not only athletes, but it will also provide students with an additional experience of college life,” Matney said. “Athletics is also an additional way to increase enrollment by attracting both athletes and their friends to AC,” Matney added.
In the past, in support of the athletes, AC had cheerleaders, a pep band and a dance troupe. The games were also broadcast live on TV which gave radio-television production students “an excellent learning experience,” according to Matney.
“The students liked going to the games, and the community became involved with the games,” Kayle Mayfield, a former AC cheerleader, said.
According to Mayfield, the gyms would be full of students practicing basketball, cheerleading and dancing. “The games gave students something to do in the evenings. The day of the games, no empty seats in the house,” she said.
Additionally, AC’s basketball team has produced some prominent athletes.
Andrew Kennedy played basketball at AC in the 80s and then transferred to the University of Virginia. Kennedy was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1987 NBA draft, but he went on to play in Israel where he was named as the Israeli Basketball Premier League MVP, according to his profile on basketball-reference.com.
Larry Kenon attended Amarillo College before transferring to Memphis State University, now the University of Memphis. Kenon was drafted into the American basketball association (ABA) by the New York Nets in 1973. In his rookie year, Kenon and the Nets won the 1974 ABA championship, according to WIlliam Rausch, a writer for “The Brooklyn Game,” a website that covers basketball news.
Additionally, Kenon made the NBA all-star team in 1978 and 1979, and in 1976 set an NBA record for most steals in a game with 11 which remains tied with former New Jersey Nets player Kendall Gill. The University of Memphis has also retired Kenon’s No. 35.