NMSU’s PanAm Centre – Hoosier Dream
Signing a NCAA Division 1 scholarship is every kids dream. Mine was no different. After Richmond High I was suddenly off to the USA to play Big Time basketball in the Big West Conference.
I knew it was a major accomplishment but really did not understand it’s magnitude until I arrived in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
I first started playing basketball at McKay Elementary’s tiny gym, then at Burnett and finally Richmond High – playing the Provincial Championship game (Sold Out 7,000 people) at the PNE’s Agrodome – these were all stepping stones to finally get to the NCAA.
Once I was at NMSU I quickly noticed how seriously American’s took their sports. Suddenly my locker-room was carpeted, the players each had their own varnished and polished wooden lockers, our locker-room had a FREE flowing pop machine – with levers – to choose your flavour. For our away games we travelled by plane and stayed in the most luxurious hotels (except when we played Utah State in Ogden, Utah). At NMSU’s PanAm Centre just to get down to the gym floor took time… there were long tunnels, stairs, corridors, metal doors. Stepping onto the floor we were always first escorted by the Aggie Dancers…then the cheerleaders…then a few band members, and finally us. As we entered the gym and jogged onto the floor four muscular men rolled out a long RED CARPET for us. Player’s came from all over America and our games normally sold-out (13,000), but if not over 10,000 people would still cheer us on. FLASHBACK: I’m 17 years old living in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and I am cherishing every last second of it as I am fully aware these are 5 short exciting years.
One of my fondest memories of the PanAm Centre was somewhat removed from all the hoopla of NCAA basketball. Generally speaking I am a noise-averse man. I listen to quieter music (like Dire Straights) over louder (Metallica or Slayer), and with my kids I am ‘most often‘ a passive disciplinarian IE: Stay Calm & Parent On.. One of my many perks at NMSU was that the basketball gymnasium PanAm Centre was always available to the basketball players. Therefore, any chance we got, my friends and I would dodge our late night corporate finance rigours to quickly gun it to the gym.
The gym was always completely dark within – save a few pot lights illuminating the mezzanine. To attract the security guard’s attention we banged on the outside door or sounded the PanAm doorbell. We were always greated with a huge smile and after signing the compulsory sign-in sheet we made our way down to the floor (in the dark). Simultaneously (here is the cool part), the security guard would walk up the countless steps to the electricity room at the top of the arena. Then… FLICK…FLICK…FICK…and FLICK the PanAm’s huge pot lights would slowly come on… one-by-one, lazily heating, majestically shining down on our floor 150ft below. Ah THE MAGIC !!! I’m 17-21 years old, shooting in my very own NCAA arena – with a few of my closest friends. I will never forget the arena echoes – the ball swishing through the nets, the pounding ball as we dribbled, and the squeaky pristinely polished parquet floor (the same floor Larry Bird played on). It was Indiana Hoosier’esque!!! and easily one of my greatest basketball treasures.