Random Musings

Old school baller: 73-year-old makes the team at Roane State

From: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2008/oct/04/still-shooting-at-73/

Still shooting at 73 

Ken Mink was shooting baskets in his driveway about this time last year when he had a sports epiphany.

"I had been knocking down shot after shot, so when I came in the house I told my wife, ‘I’ve still got it,’ " said Mink, a 73-year-old semi-retired journalist. "She said, ‘You’ve got what?’ I said, ‘I can still play.’ "

So Mink, whose playing career at Lees (Ky.) Junior College came to an unceremonious end in 1956 when he was dismissed - wrongly, by his account - for allegedly soaping the coaches’ office with shaving cream, wrote to several colleges in search of a place to play.

Roane State coach Randy Nesbit took Mink up on his offer.

"I’m not very good at saying no," said Nesbit, who just turned 50. "It’s a gesture of good will to help a fine man find closure. Why not?”

Mink said his fountain of youth has been an active lifestyle.

"Golfing, snow skiing, hang gliding, hiking and basketball,” he said, "I can’t remember a week in my life where I didn’t take part in some sport.”

Mink said he spent the better part of last summer in the gym at Knoxville’s Central Baptist Church.

"On the average, I was in there seven or eight hours a week, running, playing and getting myself in shape,” Mink said. "I knew I’d be going to school and playing, so I have to have my stamina built up pretty good.”

Mink said he played on a senior Olympic team this summer (3-on-3, half-court), finishing second in state tournaments in Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

"And I won the Tennessee state free-throw championship this year by hitting 19 of 20,” he said.

Mink’s goal is to get himself conditioned well enough to play at full speed for a 10- to 15-minute stretch, even though it’s likely he won’t play more than five or six minutes in a game for Roane State.

Nesbit said the school’s team doctor cleared Mink without event before the team got into its full conditioning drills last month.

"The team makes allowances for Ken at practice when they need to, and they all encourage him,” Nesbit said. "We look to be fairly strong, so hopefully we’ll have some games decided early. I’m sure he’ll have the opportunity to play.

"Our weakness last year was experience; I think I’ve taken care of that.”

Roane State competes in the Tennessee Junior Community College Athletic Association.

"I was exempt from some of the rules for transfers,” Mink said. "Since I was in the military I’ve gotten a break, and that enabled me to get into school.”

But the biggest break has come from Nesbit, just that he even considered the notion.

"We’re a community college, so we cater to the non-traditional students here,” said Nesbit, who also serves as athletic director at the Harriman-based school. "I guess you could say I’m doing my part for the diversity of the student body.”

Mink is nearly twice as old as the school itself, which was founded in 1971.

And so Mink is making the daily 35-mile commute from his home in Farragut to Harriman to take the required 12 hours of credits with classes in Spanish, Computer Science, U.S. History and Criminal Justice.

"I’m in class with a bunch of kids with their hats turned on backwards, but they are all amazed when I tell them what I’m doing,” Mink said. "The kids say their grandfathers are my age and they can’t get out of bed. Actually, I am older than the teachers and the school president.”

Mink serves as editor for the online travel magazine “the traveling adventurer.”

No doubt, his life seems to epitomize the Web site’s name.

Mink went into the Air Force after his first attempt at college basketball. After exiting the military in 1960, Mink spent the next 38 years at various newspapers, including the News Sentinel from 1972 through 1985 when he served as Sunday Editor and Entertainment Editor.

Mink became the city editor of the Kingsport Times (1985-1988) before finishing his print career as the managing editor of the Harrisonburg Daily News Record in Harrisonburg, Va. (1988-1998).

In addition to his online work, Mink has authored a book called “So you want your kid to be a sports superstar.”

He also plans to do a book on his Roane State experience which he’ll title: “Season from the past.”

© 2008, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

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