Love of the game leads to Mount Union

February 12, 2008

The Review

Bob McMasterIt was a little more than 50 years ago that Bob McMaster first stepped foot on the basketball court as a member of the Mount Union basketball team.

When McMaster played from 1957-61, the team played its games inside old Memorial Hall, which was located where the parking lot now is across from where the current basketball court resides inside the Timken Physical Education Building.

"This place was much smaller when I went to school here," said McMaster.

While Mount Union's landscape has undergone several changes in recent decades, McMaster's love for basketball remained unscathed. The former biology major enrolled at Case Western Reserve medical school in 1962 and practiced obstetrics and gynecology before retiring in 2001.

For many years, McMaster juggled his practice and playing basketball. His practice was located in Sun City, Ariz., however, his game was located all over the world.

In 1991, McMaster was part of the AAU 50 and over team that won the gold medal at the Masters Basketball Tournament. He also claimed the gold at the 1999 Senior Basketball Championship

Shortly after retiring from his practice, McMaster suffered a damaging blow to his health, which jeopardized his ability to play the sport he loves.

"I had a triple bypass in the early 2000s that kept me from playing basketball for three years," he said. "That was a really tough time for me."

McMaster admitted he thought he was done playing basketball and grew frustrated while sitting at home, but after constant "harassment" from his buddies he stepped back on the court in 2005.

The return process was a slow one and McMaster picked up another way to get back into shape while enjoying basketball during his recovery.

"I started officiating high school games (in Arizona)," he said. "I was retired and bored, so I thought I would give it a shot."

McMaster knew keeping up with the run-and-gun style played throughout Arizona would help him get back in basketball playing condition.

And it did.

Later that year, at the age of 66, he won another gold medal and was the leading scorer for his 65 and over team at the World Senior Basketball Championships. Since his return, McMaster has been part of six teams which have gone on to win championships or medals, including a three-peat at the U.S. Masters Basketball Championship (65 and over) and a repeat winner at the World's Maxi Championship. Both wins came in 2007.

Then McMaster, who is 69 years old, got to thinking about taking on another challenge.

"I thought this would be a good time to come back and play in this game," said McMaster prior to the start of the men's game against Otterbein Saturday afternoon. "I wanted to come back and play against the younger kids."

McMaster called his performance in the alumni game "OK," but said he enjoyed the experience.

"There is something special here at Mount Union," he said. "That was part of the reason why I came here as a student. I wanted to go where I could play basketball for all four years instead of going to a Division I school and not playing until my senior year."

McMaster was a four-year letterwinner and three-year starter for the Purple Raiders. He played along the first pair of 1,000-point scorers in school history -- Dave Brubaker and Don Talbert -- and also played for his uncle, George Hunter, during his freshman season.

Hunter left Mount Union after 1957 and went to West Point, where he was responsible for contacting Ohio State about a former basketball player to serve on his coaching staff.

"He got Bobby Knight started in coaching," McMaster said. "He (my uncle) is mentioned in Bobby Knight's last book as the reason he started coaching."

Last week, Knight announced his resignation after compiling 902 wins at the Division I level during his lengthy coaching career at Army, Indiana and Texas Tech that witnessed him winning three NCAA national championships and an Olympic gold medal in the 1984 games that featured Michael Jordan on the United States team.

The win came 12 years after the controversial Olympic games in Moscow where the Russian national team won the gold medal after an official put time back on the clock for the Soviet team, which led to the win.

McMaster did not participate in that game, but he got a little measure of revenge more than 30 years later while preparing for a seniors tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

"I got to play against four or five guys who were in the Russian national team that beat the U.S. in the Olympics," McMaster recalled. "They were a little bit younger but had remained together and we came out and beat them."

The teams met in an exhibition scrimmage during some down time of the tournament, but that didn't take away from the satisfaction of the win for McMaster.

"Of all the games I have played in, that was probably the most special because of who it was against and the circumstances," said McMaster. "It's funny because it was not a real game but was still sweet."

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