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Celebrating a History of Hoops with Alumni Game

April 10, 2017

On Thursday, April 13, Davies will welcome alumni back to the courts when teams of Davies grads and former basketball players take on the current girls’ and boys’ teams.

“We have a tradition in basketball that people don’t realize,” says Davies instructor and coach, William Meekins, who is helping spearhead the event. “There will be people seeing each other that night that haven’t been together in a long time. We’ll all be one big family.”

Chief among those guests is Lavern Gaskin – the former Davies coach who started the basketball program at Davies, ran it for 28 years, and whose name is painted across the walls of the gymnasium. In 1985, Gaskin received the Words Unlimited award for Rhode Island Schoolboy Coach of the Year. Through the 70s, 80s, and into the 90s, Davies basketball continued to secure championships and play off status.

Former players attending Thursday's game include Brian Daily, of the 1982-83 “Iron Five” team, who will be acknowledged and celebrated at the event. While Daily won’t be playing in the alumni game, both of his sons – also Davies grads – are expected to play. The Iron Five gained momentum for the Davies basketball program when they were the Class C Runners-Up in that year’s state tournament, with a season record of 18-5… And only five members of the team.

The next year, Davies won its first ever sports championship with the “Magnificent Seven,” with Gaskin as head coach and Davies grad and former instructor Bill Murphy as assistant coach. The team finished their season 20-4 and, for the first time, Rhode Island took notice of Davies’ sports program. After their successful season, the Providence Journal observed, “To some extent, athletics run counter to the spirit of the school, the only state-run vocational high school in Rhode Island… While students at other schools are practicing basketball or hockey or track or wrestling, many of the Davies students are at work.” But with their state championship, the perception of athletics and Davies began to change.

Magnificent 7 and Iron 5

In addition to recognition of the Iron Five, other events planned for the night include raffles and a performance by the dance team. The event will also be DJed by Bob Brown, who was part of the first Davies basketball team to reach the playoffs, in the 1974-75 season. Calvin Bridges, the first Davies player to score 2000 points, will also be attending.

Today, Bridges' and Brown's names hang from yellow banners in the gymnasium, alongside the names and teams of other players through the years. There are also signs that Gaskin himself had put up: the words Pride, Desire, and Respect.

This is the second event organized by Meekins, who himself received the Words Unlimited Coach of the Year award in 1995, and has taught at Davies for thirty years, this year. A self-described jock, Meekins has sports in his blood. Before being recruited to URI for football, Meekins grew up in Palmyra, New Jersey, where his father, Osa, coached. (Today, there’s even a football field in Palmyra in Osa’s name.) Through his years at Davies, Meekins has coached soccer, basketball, strength and conditioning and even, for less than a season, baseball.

The first alumni basketball game organized by Meekins was held three years ago, but didn’t include students. Instead, the event was organized into teams of graduates from 1995 and below and a second team of alumni who graduated after ’95. “It was a good game, down to the wire,” recalls Meekins. “Raul Delarosa scored thirty points. He kept knocking out three point shots.”

According to Meekins, any students underestimating the alumni might be in for a surprise.

“The students think they’re gonna kill them because they’re ‘old,’” Meekins says. “They don’t realize the men still play. I said they’re going to get dunked on.”

The night will begin with the girls team vs. alumni at 6:00 PM, followed by the boys team vs. alumni. Concessions will be available. Admission is free with a suggested donation to the Brandon Gailliard Scholarship Fund.

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