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March 21, 2018

Alumni Spotlight: Dave Scribner ’69 (History) – My Basketball Journey to the Roberts Athletic Hall of Fame


My Basketball Journey to the Roberts Athletic Hall of Fame:  A 50-year Perspective

Dave Scribner, Varsity Player and Head Basketball Coach at Roberts Wesleyan College

“I’m sorry son, you have a heart murmur.  You can’t play basketball.”  The words of the school physician pierced through me like a sword cutting through butter.  I was stunned.  I was crushed.  The silent voice within me wanted to yell out, “Hey wait a minute.  Don’t you know I already made the jayvee team?  I’m destined to start.  Playing basketball is what I do best.  It is who I am.”  But instead, I bit my tongue, said nothing, and kept my anger and rage to myself.

The Lord works in mysterious ways.  Little did I know what lay before me four years down the road, and that was the opportunity to play basketball on the greatest team, with the greatest teammates, in front of the greatest fans, for the greatest coach in the 70-plus years of intercollegiate basketball at Roberts Wesleyan College.  What a twist of fate.  My journey was punctuated and then capstoned last September with induction into the Roberts Wesleyan Athletic Hall of Fame as a member of the first team, in its entirety, to be inducted.  

As I gradually outgrew the heart murmur, I continued to play basketball throughout my High School years.  However, my games were at the Batavia YMCA (not the school) and it was at the “Y” that I honed my basketball skills.  I played in the men’s Industrial League; in the Church League for the Methodist team; and on the “Y” travel team.  I was a gym rat in the most literal sense of the word.

I came to Roberts in the Fall of ’65.  I first learned about Roberts through several Roberts-educated Assistant Pastors at our church, the Batavia First United Methodist Church.  One of these Pastors was Don Coburn, class of ‘59.  He was a sharp guy, and to a teenager like me he seemed to be a wonderful example of Christianity in action.  He made Roberts seem attractive to me.  I also knew some Batavians who were attending Roberts including lifelong friend and fellow teammate Noel Smith, class of ’68.  I was further attracted to Roberts because of its lifestyle disciplines.  I wanted to get an education without being subjected to the pressures of drinking and drugs which seemed to be prevalent at many other colleges.

When I enrolled in the Fall of ’65, I still had no clue that I would get an opportunity to play basketball.  Upon arriving on campus I started going to the famous “pit” in Carpenter Hall to shoot baskets.  One day I ran into Keith Moore, class of ’67, and a future teammate.  At the time, I had no idea who he was (a current starter on the varsity team) but I asked him if he wanted to play some one-on-one.  He said, “Sure,” and proceeded to thrash me 10 to 1.  In the process, he taught me a lesson on how to play intense defense.  I admired the way that he did not coast when he was way ahead - he played just as hard at the end of our game as he did at the beginning.  Thank you, Keith, for teaching me some great lessons.  These were the first of a great many life lessons I learned at Roberts.

Soon I learned that there were to be tryouts for basketball, and believe me, I was first in line.  I just missed making the varsity team my freshman year, but instead, gained valuable experience on the freshman team.  I was fortunate to be one of the leading scorers along with future varsity teammate Paul Crowell.  Entering my sophomore year, I knew there were only a couple of openings on the varsity team, and I was bound and determined to earn one of those slots.  That summer I worked for hours and hours on my ball handling skills, shooting skills, and “Keith Moore-style” defense.

The hard work paid off as I made the varsity team in my sophomore year, and what a year it was. Stan Ziblut, class of ’66 and a starting guard the previous year, had graduated, and there was a need for someone to come off the bench and play a lot of minutes at point guard.  I was fortunate to become that person, and as the first guard off the bench I played significant minutes, scoring over 100 points during the season while dishing off numerous assists.  During that magnificent year I experienced three watershed moments in the history of basketball at Roberts:

  • First was the Buffalo State game when we beat a great Buff-State team that was the best small college team in the Northeast.  It was our 16th straight win played in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Churchville-Chili High School.  Many fans never got in because the Fire Marshalls started closing the doors two hours before game time. It was the first time Roberts had ever beaten Buff-State.
  • Second was winning the inaugural Monroe County Collegiate Championship which (and we didn’t know it at the time) became the longest running collegiate in-season tournament in the country.  We beat St. John Fisher in the finals led by the late Bill Bachmann who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
  • The third event occurred as we were coming home from Eastern Pennsylvania, where we lost a heartbreaker in overtime in the NAIA playoffs.  I will never forget the sight as our team bus (driven by Duran “Uncle Buck” Debarr) approached the intersection of Orchard St. and Buffalo Road. There were police cars stopping traffic, and I saw hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members lining the streets as they cheered and welcomed us home.  This was followed by an enthusiastic pep rally in the dining hall.  As Coach Hughes said in his speech during the recent Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, “Seeing all those people rallying around us, the whole experience was like a fairy-tale.” 

Fifty years later, during Homecoming Weekend this past September, was when the ’65-’67 team was inducted into the Roberts Athletic Hall of Fame.  My teammates, coaches and I were treated to a series of events organized by Bob Segave, Athletic Director at the college.  On Friday was the Induction Ceremony presided over by President Deana Porterfield and Segave.  All members of the team plus coaches and staff were introduced and given medallions.  Harry Hutt (class of ’65 and former Coach and Sports Information Director at Roberts) did the introductions using his vast institutional memory with humor and poignancy.  On Saturday, after the team had lunch together in the President’s Conference Room, we all shared memories around the table.  It was great to hear about my teammates’ successes as several went on from Roberts to earn Doctorate and other advanced Degrees.  When it was my turn to speak, I thought about what a journey it was from the YMCA to the Roberts Wesleyan Athletic Hall of Fame.  I tried to say as best I could how thankful I was to God for leading me to Roberts Wesleyan College, and that I was thankful to God for bringing Coach Bill Hughes to the college.  He was the uncompromising catalyst who sparked our success.  I literally would have run through the proverbial brick wall for that man.  He taught me many lessons, including how to think big and how to prepare, lessons that served me well later during my professional life. Most importantly, he gave me a chance and he believed in me, giving me the confidence that I could play Varsity College Basketball.

The most wonderful aspect of my experience at Roberts Wesleyan was getting to know on a personal level, the faculty, staff, and fellow students, and building relationships with them.  On the court our fans were super-passionate, and it was a thrill to feel their support.  I loved being out there with Frank Carter and the late Bill Bachmann, the greatest scorer and greatest rebounder, respectively, in the history of the college.  What a tremendous bond we shared as a team.  Over the years we have had a number of reunions and we all have remained close.  In addition to the team, I met a number of people at Roberts from all walks of life who became lifelong friends, including my wife and best friend Mary Kay.

In conclusion, it was a tremendous honor to have President Deana Porterfield put the Hall of Fame medallion around my neck this past September.  As I stood on the stage with all of the team members (amazingly everyone from the ‘65-‘67 teams returned including *Bill Bachmann who inspired all of us as with his valiant effort to live life at its fullest despite the ravaging effects of a 14-month fight against pancreatic cancer) and looked back at those 50-plus years, I had to admit that not playing in High School didn’t hurt quite as much as I thought and that God led me to Roberts for a reason.  I hope and pray that Roberts will continue to foster these experiences for many others in the years to come. To my coaches and teammates, and all the others I met at Roberts, I am sincerely indebted.  Roberts is truly painted on my heart.

*Bill Bachmann delighted everyone with his presence at the Yesteryear’s Brunch.  He and a close friend of the family drove round-trip to N. Chili from Orlando, FL.  It was reported that on the trip Bill talked incessantly about how excited he was to be coming back to the Roberts campus.  Bill died about two weeks later. He was one of the most gifted people I have ever met.  His competitive zeal rubbed off on all of us and made us a better team.

Note – Special thanks go to lifelong friend Harry Hutt for his expert help and assistance in editing this article.

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