KINGSPORT — A chance meeting between a coach and one of his former players at a gas station in Cookeville will culminate in quite the homecoming on Saturday, Jan. 18 inside the Buck Van Huss Dome.
Fred Smith, who played basketball for Dobyns-Bennett in the early 1990s, ran into Steve Shipley one day, and the two started talking about the good old days in Kingsport. When Shipley mentioned how much fun it would be to get some of the old guys together, the idea of an alumni game started to take shape.
That game will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. Several stars from D-B’s storied history will take the floor and allow fans of all ages to take a stroll down memory lane.
Smith, who now resides in Knoxville, said the brotherhood that exists among those who have played for the winningest high school basketball program in the country spans the generations.
“People can say, ‘My team was this and my team was that.’ I say my team is the winningest team in the nation,” Smith said. “That’s why it was so easy to get so many guys to come back.”
The list of players expected to compete in the upcoming game is impressive. More than 20 former Indians are expected to play with several more expected to be in attendance. The list includes former Dallas Cowboy Gerald Sensabaugh, Josh Mills, JaMichael Mills and Mickey Seaver.
Coty Sensabaugh, currently of the Tennessee Titans, will be in attendance and may get on the floor if the foot injury that landed him in the injured reserve list near the end of the NFL season has healed sufficiently.
Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper will also be on hand and is likely to get into the action.
Smith credited Dobyns-Bennett athletic director Cary Daniels, current Tribe boys coach Charlie Morgan and the folks at the Slam Dunk Club for helping get the event organized.
As for getting players together, Smith said it wasn’t that hard to do, especially with today’s technology at his disposal.
“It was pretty easy,” he said. “I had to reach out to a lot of people, but I keep in touch with a lot of my former teammates.
“With the Facebook phenomenon, it was easy to get in touch with everyone.”
As for the format of the game, Smith said the plan is to play four 10-minute quarters in order to give everyone who wants a chance to get into the game. Shipley will coach one team and Thom Throp will be handling the public address duties.
Although the quality of play in alumni games can be a little bit ragged, Smith said everyone who attends should have a good time. There will be door prizes, a live DJ and games for the kids at halftime.
A portion of the proceeds will go to the Slam Dunk Club, an organization Smith credits for helping make life a little easier for countless D-B basketball players over the years by providing food on road trips.
Saturday’s game will also allow Smith to reflect on his own career, which included a pair of 30-win seasons and two trips to the state tournament.
More than 20 years later, Smith said his time at D-B remains a great source of pride.
“Anywhere I go in life, I’m proud to be an athlete who represented Dobyns-Bennett,” he said.
“It’s going to be a fun night.”