Ladner honored on the 25th anniversary of 1987 USM NIT
By Joseph W. Gex, II
Jan 25, 2013, 18:02
Former SSC head basketball coach Jay Ladner was recently honored with his teammates on the 25th anniversary of the University of Southern Mississippi’s National Invitational Tournament (NIT) championship team.
Ladner and other members of the 1987 title team were honored with a weekend of activities in Hattiesburg on January 18-19.
Ladner commented, “The entire team was able to be there for the celebration including head coach M K Turk. It was great to see everyone and enjoy some more fellowship with a group of guys that you spent so much time with. We have been very fortunate that everyone is healthy and doing well these 25 years later. When we got back together last weekend, it was like it was 1987 again. Our sense of togetherness was one of the unique aspects that made our team so successful that year.”
The weekend of activities started on Friday, January 18th with a meet-and-greet at Mugshots from 11am until 1pm. The players were introduced to a packed house and then signed commemorative posters for the adoring fans. Later that evening a concert by Emerson Drive and a pep rally was sponsored on campus. The team was introduced to the public at halftime of the Golden Eagles game against the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday, January 19th.
The Golden Eagles finished the 1987 campaign with a 23-11 record. They won five games in the NIT tournament en route to the school’s only national title in basketball. USM defeated Ole Miss, St. Louis, Vanderbilt and Nebraska before reaching the finals. They defeated LaSalle 84-80 for the title at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Ole Miss featured All-SEC guard Rob Barnes while Vanderbilt had future NBA champion Will Perdue on the floor. LaSalle was led by future NBA player Lionel Simmons.
The first round game against Ole Miss was rather unique for the state of Mississippi not only because the schools were in-state rivals but also because of the history between the two head coaches. USM head coach M.K. Turk and Ole Miss head coach Ed Murphy were college roommates at the University of West Alabama where they played basketball together.
Ladner added, “We were led by our team’s only senior Kenny Siler. The majority of the team was from small-town Mississippi and were not highly recruited guys. They were proud of where they came from. The coaches – M.K. Turk, Robert McInnis and Ralph Moore – were able to finds diamonds in the rough. This team proved that you don’t have to go to a powerhouse program to get noticed. We got hot at the right time of the year and were playing at a high level. It was a magical experience. It was an experience that has stayed with us all and galvanized a community.”
Turk retired from USM almost a decade ago while McInnis retired as head coach of the Jones County Bobcats. Moore is still coaching at Hinds Community College. While many of the team members are doing their own thing, Ladner is still involved in basketball. He spent 20 years at St. Stanislaus College winning 490 games before moving on to Oak Grove for one year and is currently the head coach at Jones County Junior College. In roughly one week, Ladner will square off again with his former coach, Ralph Moore, when the Bobcats take on Hinds.
The USM team did get hot at the right time of the year winning eight of their last 11 games including the 5-0 run through the NIT. And, the run not only galvanized a community, it aligned an entire state. Congratulations to that famed national title team from South Mississippi and to Hancock County’s own Jay Ladner.