BLADE FILE PHOTO BY JACK ACKERMA Enlarge
In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Matt Markey talked with former Genoa basketball standout Ron Hammye, who is currently the athletic director at Franklin High School in Livonia, Mich.
At 6-foot-10, Ron Hammye led Genoa's basketball team to the state semifinals in 1974. An All-Ohio first team pick, he is the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,085 points.
With Hammye and a strong supporting cast, Genoa went 43-3 during his junior and senior years. The Comets lost in the Class AA regional final in 1973, before advancing to the state the following year. Their only regular-season loss over that two-year period was in the season-opener of his senior year to a strong DeVilbiss team Genoa had beaten the
Hammye was also a dominant baseball pitcher, going 7-1 with an 0.84 ERA his senior season, when the Comets reached the Class AA state semifinals.
He continued his basketball career at Bowling Green State University, where as a freshman Hammye was part of the tallest team in the country, with 7-foot Mark Cartwright, 6-11 Skip Howard, and 6-9 Cornelius Cash. Hammye worked into the starting lineup midway through his freshman year. He played his first two seasons under coach Pat Haley, and the final two under John Weinert.
Hammye left BG with 1,208 points, which put him 11th on the career scoring list at the time. He also had 810 rebounds, which was fourth all-time when he graduated. He was a two-year captain and the team's MVP as a senior. Hammye was selected in the eighth round of the 1978 NBA draft by the now-defunct Kansas City Kings but was later cut by the team.
Hammye moved on to a very successful career as a college coach, first as an assistant at BGSU and at Wayne State in Detroit. He served 13 seasons as head coach at Wayne State and is the school's all-time winningest coach with a record of 212-154 from 1988-2001.
Hammye was named Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference coach of the year three times and the Great Lakes regional coach of the year twice. He took his Wayne State teams to six GLIAC championships and a pair of 25-win seasons. In 1993, Wayne State won the Great Lakes regional and advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four.
He is a member of the Genoa and Wayne State halls of fame.
"AS I REFLECT on my days as an athlete at Genoa, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude to my parents, the community, my coaches, my teachers, my teammates and my friends for providing such a wonderful place to grow and prosper. And did we grow. Our basketball team my junior and senior years was as big as many college teams. Our starting line-up was 6-10, 6-8, 6-2, 6-2 and 6-1, with 6-7 and 6-4 coming off the bench. We received a lot of attention beginning mid-season our junior year, going 21-0 before losing in the regional final.
"The following season, we lost our first game to a very good DeVilbiss team featuring Farley Bell and Terry Crosby, then won 22 straight before losing in the state semifinals."
"I RECEIVED most of the attention because of my height. However, we were a very talented and well-balanced team. Our starting guards, Jim
Feckley and Jeff Shaneck, earned athletic scholarships to BGSU and UT, respectively. Harlan Niehaus earned a scholarship to VMI and was a dominant high school player. Dave Hitchen was our coach and much of what he taught still impacts my life today. Coach Hitchen challenged us everyday and demanded our best. He was an excellent role model.
"Our senior year wasn't just about basketball. We also realized the dream of playing in the state semifinals in baseball. It was a great experience earning two trips to Columbus in the same year. As they are with their athletic teams now, the Genoa community was unbelievably supportive from the little kids in the elementary schools to the senior citizens. The town was virtually closed the day we played at St. John Arena. We were like rock stars. It was a wonderful and exciting time."
"THE RECRUITING process was difficult. I chose BGSU over the likes of Toledo, Ohio State, North Carolina-Charlotte, and Miami (Ohio). I have never regretted choosing BG - except for the school colors - as it provided me with many opportunities. It also allowed my parents and others in my life at that time to share in the experience.
The transition to college basketball did not come easily for me. We were advertised as the tallest team in the nation - and it certainly was different from my high school days. My college debut occurred at Cleveland State. I entered the game with 17 seconds remaining and exited the game with 16 seconds remaining. Needless to say, this game did not help my career stats. A few games later, we flew to Syracuse. So you can imagine my surprise when Pat Haley announced me as the starter at the center position just 10 minutes prior to tip-off.
"I finished the game as the leading rebounder and started the remainder of the season. We finished second in the MAC and earned a berth in a short-lived postseason national tournament in Louisville. Our first game was against Tennessee, which featured the Ernie (Grunfeld) and Bernie (Bernard King) Show. We beat them but lost in the next round to the eventual champion, Drake."
"I HAD THE opportunity to play with and against many very good players. Cornelius Cash, Jeff Montgomery, Tommy Harris, and Rosie Barnes were teammates that were drafted by NBA teams. Our nonleague schedule was always demanding, if not impossible. Playing against the likes of Robert Parish of Centenary, Rick Roby from Kentucky, and Jerome Whitehead and Butch Lee from Marquette was a very humbling experience. The MAC was also very strong in the mid 70s, so there was no break in the schedule. I was drafted and cut by the Kansas City Kings, played semi-professionally on the west coast, and was given a free agent tryout by the San Antonio Spurs, but again, did not make it. It was time to look elsewhere."
"MY FIRST YEAR away from playing organized basketball allowed me to get my feet wet coaching. Jim Firestone, the principal at Genoa, hired me to coach the varsity girls basketball team. I was apprehensive at first because I did not think they would dedicate themselves to play hard and compete hard to win. I couldn't have been more wrong. We won 10 games, but more importantly, I gained a huge respect for women's
"JOHN WEINERT then gave me an opportunity for which I will always be grateful. In 1980, he hired me as a graduate assistant at BGSU. This allowed me the opportunity to earn my masters degree and begin a career coaching at the collegiate level. The following year, Charlie Parker, BG's top assistant, was hired as the head coach at Wayne State and asked me to be his full-time assistant. After six seasons, he departed for USC and I was chosen to replace him."
"OUR PROGRAM at Wayne State won several championships and earned four trips to the NCAA Tournament during this time. In 1993, we made it to the Final Four of the NCAA Division II Tournament which is the deepest any team from that conference has ever advanced. I really wanted the opportunity to coach at the Division I level but could never convince anyone to give me a shot. I interviewed with BG the year Dan Dakich was chosen to lead the program. Dan did a good job, but I sure wish they had chosen me. In 2001, I decided I didn't want any more 12-hour bus rides to Michigan Tech so I chose to move forward and departed WSU for Franklin High School in Livonia. It was the right move. I truly enjoy my work with high school students, athletes, and their families.
"Athletics have allowed me to earn a living, and enjoy a life doing something I truly love to do. I have a beautiful and supportive wife and daughter, and I live a dream. I can still hear my father saying to me that I get paid to play - and how right he was."