Forty-five years ago, Paducah Junior College, which was renamed Paducah Community College in 1968 and since 2003 has been known as West Kentucky Community & Technical College, reached the highest of the highs when it won the 1969 National Junior College Athletic Association Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship.
During halftime of the 7 p.m. WKCTC Basketball Invitational today between the Earle Clements Job Corps Center and WKCTC in Haws Gym, the institution will honor Rick Ragland, who helped lead PCC to that national title. The night begins with Club Louisville playing Elizabethtown Community & Technical College at 5 p.m.
"It's a great honor, because I was only one of the local boys on the team," said Ragland, who spent more than 30 years as a teacher in the Paducah school system, is a 1967 graduate of Paducah Tilghman High School and after graduating from PCC in 1969 went on to play two years at Southern Miss.
"The rest of them were from New York and from all over the country. It was a dream come true and to this day, even though it's been 45 years, people still ask me if I'm the Rick Ragland that played on the basketball team. I tell them I was and that I'm really proud of it. It makes me feel really good that the people of Paducah still remember that."
Ragland was named a NJCAA All-American, and teammate Bobby Jones was named the Tournament MVP after PCC's 79-76 win over Robert Morris (Pa.) in the title game, a run that saw the school win its four games in the national tournament by a total of nine points and overcome a 25-6 first-half deficit in the final.
Those victories included PCC's 86-85 triumph over Hutchinson Community College (Kan.) that Ragland recounted was decided when a player from HCC misread the scoreboard and missed two free throws with three seconds left â “ the game was played at HCC, but PCC was listed as the home team on the scoreboard â “ and PCC's 79-78 victory over Burlington Community College (Iowa) in the semifinals.
In that game, Ragland guarded Dick Gibbs, who went onto play for the University of Texas at El Paso and then was drafted in the third round as the 49th pick of the 1971 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls, and held Gibbs to 10 points when he came in averaging 39 points a game.
"We didn't have the best talent by any means, but we had the best team," said Ragland, who started teaching at Brazelton Junior High â “ now Paducah Middle School â “ in 1971, was the freshman girls basketball coach and freshman football coach at PMS from 1971 to 1980, and then was PTHS's head varsity girls basketball and golf coach from 1898 to 1995.
"We just played together, went to school together, partied together and hung around each other all the time. We just knew if one guy had a bad night that someone else would pick it up. We were just a fantastic team."
Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow him on Twitter @bigdog_jamesd.