BELOIT - Bruce Brown considers himself fortunate to have played on an amazing basketball team whose accomplishment ranks as arguably the most iconic in Beloit sports history.
It occurred 50 years ago, yet for those at Thursday night's 34th Beloit Historical Society Elliott-Perring Sports Hall of Fame Banquet, it seemed like yesterday.
Brown became the third player from Beloit Memorial's legendary 26-0 state championship team to be inducted into the Hall, joining LaMont Weaver and David Kilgore. Their late and great head coach, Bernie Barkin, was also honored years ago.
To many, Brown's induction has been long overdue. While Weaver's "Shot Heard 'Round the State" - a 55-foot prayer that sent the title game with Neenah into overtime - became the most famous basket in WIAA State Basketball Tournament history, fellow All-Stater Brown's contribution to Beloit's sixth state title was just as powerful.
In fact, the 6-foot-7 center led the state tourney in scoring with 82 points and set a field-goal accuracy record by hitting 75 percent of his shots (27-of-36). He had 25 points in Beloit's 80-79 double-overtime win over Neenah.
Brown, who has lived in Georgia since playing for Georgia Tech, said the personal accolades coming his way Thursday night were nice, but this honor was the product of his team's success.
"Without my team, I achieve nothing," he said. "It's like the coach in the movie 'Hoosiers' says, 'Basketball is five playing as one.' That's what we had and we were finely-tuned by a great coach."
Brown thanked several of his past coaches for their mentorship, but none more than Barkin.
When his older brother played for Barkin in 1962 and 1963, Brown said the coach occasionally took him aside during practice and gave him a few pointers.
"When I was in fifth and sixth grade basketball, (Barkin) would attend at least one game," Brown said. "He invited us to watch a practice. That's special for a kid. He always used a phrase, 'Do the job,' and that's what we always tried to do."
It's a phrase that applies to each of the inductees. In their own way, they all did their job and did it well.
The other inductees included 1940s Beloit High football star Robert (Bob) Seidel, former South Beloit SoBo great Glenn Buggs, Beloit Catholic 1,000-point scorer Bridget Georgeff, who also became a standout in cycling and duathlons, and long-time Beloit Turner baseball coach Rick Hofeditz.
Seidel, an All-Stater in football in 1946, had four older brothers who all went into the armed services during World War II.
"I wanted to go, but I was too young," Seidel said. "So I took out my frustration on the football field."
He was a two-way starter at guard, a skilled kick-blocker, and the sort of kid who worked for the railroad in the off-season to toughen him up for football.
While it would have been hard to keep Seidel off the field, Buggs had to be talked onto it by a former SoBo assistant coach, Greg Hatch. The 1979 SoBo grad went on to become a fantastic running back, accumulating 4,337 career yards.
Among those Buggs singled out to thank was former SoBo head coach Andy Trice.
"Coach Trice was my first African-American coach," Buggs said. "He was my first African-American teacher. He's a terrific coach and really he should be up here accepting an award."
Buggs played collegiately for the University of Iowa Hawkeyes in three major bowl games.
He did it as a blocking fullback, however, not the featured runner he'd hoped to be. Instead he discovered it was just as meaningful to be the consummate team player for a the Hawkeyes.
Georgeff had all sorts of success as a high school basketball player with the Crusaders, earning Beloit Daily News All-Area First Team twice and Player of the Year as a senior. Like Brown, she said a much of her success was a tribute to her teammates.
"I had some great players around me, like Marissa Christianson, Julie Schill and Randi Roehl," she said. "They made me look good."
She also spent part of her acceptance speech talking about failure.
"I had many successes during my high school basketball career, but I failed miserably as a college player," she said. "I used that failure as a driving force in my cycling and competing in duathlons and most of my success came when I was 30-plus."
Hofeditz and his Trojans had a few games they probably regret over his 20 years there. They did lose 93 games on his watch. But they also won 315, including 10 conference titles and a state crown in 2001.
His presenter, Ed DeGeorge, asked his son, Jordan, who played for Hofeditz, what made him so successful.
His answer: "Coach Hofeditz never let us settle with being good enough. He praised work ethic, hustle and execution. His praise was hard to earn, but when you go it, it made you feel invincible. A 'that-a-boy' from Hofeditz was the best approval we could get."
Hofeditz, who retired from coaching in 2008, said he was simply fortunate to land a job where year after year he had an ample crop of baseball devotees.
"They loved to practice," he said. "We had a hard time getting them off the field."
In fact, many stuck around to serve as coaches in the program after their careers were over, including current head coach Jeff Clowes.
Now living in Arizona, Hofeditz still loves the Trojans and baseball.
"We drove up here and I knew Rick was going to want to stop and catch a game or two in the College World Series on the way home," wife Barb said.
Wrapping up the evening, Turner statistician Karl Miller received the Everett Haskell-Bernie Barkin Lifetime Achievement Award for his long service to the school. Miller has attended 1,200 straight games between boys basketball and football.