City League basketball stars, coaches cherish memories

Kenny Cunningham, center, greets Bobby Clay of Omaha at the City League basketball reunion at SeaGate Convention Centre.
Kenny Cunningham, center, greets Bobby Clay of Omaha at the City League basketball reunion at SeaGate Convention Centre.

Former City League basketball stars came out en masse Saturday night to downtown Toledo.

They gathered for an evening of reminiscing during the first “Ballers’ Night Reunion — All the Basketball Players Are Coming Home,” to acknowledge former City League players and City League memories.

“For all of the great athletes to come out of the City League, it’s nice for us to be able to get together,” said Terry Crosby, a DeVilbiss grad who played in the City League during the 1970s. “We’re all like brothers now. Before, we were competitors.”

Crosby, along with Rogers graduate Ken Cunningham and Scott graduate Truman Claytor, were responsible for the night of celebration at the SeaGate Convention Centre. A couple of years of discussion and planning led to the event that featured food, drinks, and music, along with plenty of conversation among old City League foes from as far back as 40 years ago.

Cunningham, a a 1976 Rogers standout, is credited with coming up with the idea of holding the event. Barely an hour into the celebration, he was pleasantly surprised to see about 100 in attendance. By the end of the night, turnout had reached 350.

“This is a great thing to see people coming in from all over the country, and seeing everybody embracing each other,” said Cunningham, who played at Western Michigan and was drafted in 1980 by the Utah Jazz. “It’s been overwhelming."

Former St. Francis de Sales coach Val Willie Glinka and his wife, Jean, also attended. His 1983 Knights, led by Shaun Reid and Todd Mitchell, became the first Toledo school to win a state title.

Glinka said he and members of the Knights’ AAA state-title team met a month ago to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of their title. He recalled how playing in the City League prepared the Knights for the tournament.

“We sold out TU [the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena] seven times that year,” Glinka said. “We sold out TU more than TU.”

Video slides that included photographs from City League games from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s and old game programs were displayed one a wall inside the hall. At one point, the City League was made up of as many as 13 teams and was the first league in Ohio with public and parochial schools.

Claytor said he was sold on the idea of the event after being diagnosed a few years back with prostate cancer and losing his brother, William, to the disease last June.

“We wanted to have something like a [City League] reunion and bring people back,” said Claytor, now cancer-free for a couple of years. “I thank God I’m up and walking around.”

Claytor graduated from Scott and attended the University of Kentucky, where he was a starting guard on the Wildcats’ 1978 national championship team. He’s been an Ohio high school referee for more than a decade and has watched players come through the City League. He’s had as good a view of the league’s players over the last four decades as anyone.

So, which period of the City League does he think was the best?

“I think our era was still the best,”he said. “This past year, [basketball in the area] was great.

“I’ve watched a lot of these guys grow up, but I think we were still a notch above them.”

Proceeds from the event will be donated to Mom’s House and the MLK Kitchen For The Poor.

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