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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 3

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 3 9 Billy Keller needs little intro- duction. A member of the Boiler- maker Athletics Hall of Fame, Keller played and coached on Purdue's only Final Four teams. Now spending the winter months in Florida surrounded by four grandchildren and all the activities accompanying that, we caught up with Keller in early January to get his thoughts on the 50th anniversary of Mackey Arena and reflections on his experience. Gold and Black: What were your thoughts on address- ing the Mackey crowd for the 50-year celebration? Keller: "It was really fun to be back in Mackey. It was extra special to be able to see the old teammates that played during those years at Purdue. Everything was tremendous. The John Purdue Club members and organization that put on our lunch gave us a chance to visit. Everything was great, plus Purdue beat Northwestern, so that made it even greater. I just want- ed to convey to the people there that afternoon that things change, but yet it feels the same. We as team were there, but the current team is playing on the same floor that we played on. It felt the same having the cheerleaders, students and alumni cheering. They were just different faces. It was special and special to see the team as great as it ever was." Gold and Black: Looking back at that first game against UCLA in 1967 and they were such a big power- house at the time, what is your main takeaway as you remember that? Keller: "Living it back in '67, you're really disappoint- ed you lost the opening dedication game. It hurt at the time, but now when you look back, it was just a thrill to be there and be associated with it, and having Johnny Wooden come back as the coach of UCLA and all the suc- cess he had as a UCLA Bruin and a Purdue Boilermak- er, it was just fond memories now, 50 years later." Gold and Black: Do you have a favorite Mack- ey Arena moment for yourself? Keller: "The 31 points I had, I think, was against IU on my Senior Day at Mackey, and Rick (Mount) had 40, I will treasure that forever. We won the game and had 120 points (still a record for a men's hoops game). Jerry Oliver, who was my high school coach, was an assistant for IU at the time, so playing in front of him was special, but the fact we won the first Big Ten title in 29 years that season makes for fond memories today." Gold and Black: What was it like to play with Pur- due Hall of Famers Herman Gilliam and Rick Mount and build a great team? Keller: "To play with those two was really special. Rick was the greatest shooter I ever played with and the greatest even in the Big Ten. Herman Gilliam was the guy that I think real- ly sacrificed his skills for the team. Looking at coach George King, he was the master at delegating, the master of telling guys what their roles were. But we had other key players, too, like George (Faerber), Chuck (Bavis), Tyrone (Bedford), Ralph (Taylor), Frank (Kaufman) and Jerry (Johnson). We became a great team in our championship season. We had all the ingredients. But our junior year (1967-68) was not the best year. It was kind of a molding year, getting guys accus- tomed to roles and being satisfied with roles, and then it all came together my senior year." Gold and Black: You're the only one in the history of Purdue to be involved with both Final Four teams. What is the secret sauce? Keller: "Well, I think you have to have some luck. You have to have some good coaching, and I think George King was a very good coach. He was a master at delegating and having guys understand their roles. I think Lee Rose (the coach of the 1980 Final Four team) was a lot like that too, but in a different way. Lee was in a different time when players needed to know why. I think in both teams, we had guys that were willing to sacrifice. Guys that did bond together for the good of the team. I know the experienc- es as a player gave me a chance to springboard into the pro game, and I ended up playing seven years with the Indiana Pacers in those ABA years. By playing a role and by doing what I was supposed to do, our team was successful and when our team was successful, that meant every individual on that team was successful, and that's why I was discovered." — Alan Karpick Boiler Index Photo by Charles Jischke

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