By Harv Aronson
I didn't watch a lick of college basketball this season, but with March Madness approaching, I'll take a shot at making selections for the big dance and one of the most popular playoffs in the pros or amateurs.
By Harv Aronson
As a huge MMA fan, on January 14th of this year, during the UFC’s “Fight Night 124,” former welterweight champion Matt Hughes was honored with a video and a walkout to take a seat outside the Octagon.
Today, I’m recalling his career as Hughes was and probably is still is the classiest and most respected fighter the UFC has ever seen. Last year, he was in a terrible car accident, hit by an oncoming train that has left him with emotional and physical scars. Watching the video on my home page will choke anyone up who cares about the sport and what he contributed as well as respecting Matt Hughes.
Matt Hughes has always been a class act and an outstanding athlete. Wrestling is his background and he has many accolades to back that up. In high school he was a two-time Illinois state champion of Class A wrestling at 145 pounds. He represented Hillsboro High School. Those titles came in his junior and senior years that saw him win every match he competed in. In his final three years in high school, he lost just twice while winning 131 matches.
As a college wrestler, Matt Hughes competed for three different schools. Beginning at Southwester Illinois College, he wrestled at 158 pounds and was fifth in national finals. That school ended their wrestling program so Hughes transferred to Lincoln College and rose to third in the nation. Upon graduating from the junior college, he finished his education at Easter Illinois University where he became a two-time NCAA Division I All-American and in 1996 was 8th in the country, and then a year later finished fifth. For his career at Eastern Illinois he left with a record of 80-15.
Hughes’ UFC career began on New Year’s Day 1998 with a submission victory over Erick Snyder. After winning four straight bouts, he lost to Dennis Hallman in 1998 by submission. Matt Hughes would not lose again until his rematch with Hallman in 2000 entering that fight with a 22-1 record. Hallman again submitted Hughes. A second straight loss just a few months later to Jose Landi-Jons did not set back Hughes who would win 13 straight before B.J. Penn submitted him on January 31, 2004. That loss handed the welterweight title over to Penn, a championship Hughes had won by beating Carlos Newton in 2001.
With the welterweight title vacated, Hughes won it back from the great Georges St-Pierre on October 22, 2004 only to lose it again in a rematch with GSP on November 18, 2006. With a record of 41-5, Hughes continued to fight, but lost four of his final eight fights before retiring after two straight losses both by knockout to B.J. Penn and than Josh Koscheck.
If you weren’t aware, Matt Hughes has a twin brother Mark who also fought in the UFC for a short time compiling a 6-2 record. Also a wrestler, Mark Hughes actually had a bout against his brother in high school and Mark was the victor. Interestingly enough, the Hughes brothers were born on their father’s birthday. Matt is a father to three children and step father to his wife Audra’s son from a previous relationship. Matt’s other son is from a previous relationship as well.
The dark day for Matt Hughes came on June 16, 2017 when a train struck his truck while he was a trail crossing in Illinois near his home. Incredibly, he suffered no broken bones or internal injuries but suffered head trauma that left him unconscious and unresponsive. His treatment and recovery came at the Triumph Over Tragedy Foundation of which he was a board member. The facility provides care to those with brain and spinal cord injuries. It was on October 4, 2017 that he returned there for an emotional honoring to those who helped him in his recovery as shown below.
You can’t help but respect and admire Matt Hughes for his abilities and his courage. If all UFC fighters had the class and sportsmanship of Matt Hughes, the sport would gain respect like it’s never seen before. Do you hear that Dana White?
By Harv Aronson
So I’ve covered the NFL, and Major League Baseball writing about their first amateur drafts in the history of both sports. Aside from the National Football League, the National Basketball Association is probably the next most popular draft held in all of the major sports leagues.
However, the NBA did not start their draft process under the league name of National Basketball Association. Professional basketball’s first ever draft came when the league was called the “Basketball Association of America.” The year was 1947 kicking of their debut with a season that went into 1948 as well. In that inaugural season of professional basketball that involved the 10 teams making up the league (Pittsburgh Ironmen, Toronto Huskies, Boston Celtics, Providence Steamrollers, New York Knicks, Philadelphia Warriors, St. Louis Bombers, Chicago Stags, Washington Capitols, and the Baltimore Bullets), there were 10 men selected in the first ever professional basketball amateur draft.
Of those 10 players all of whom were coming out of universities across the country, four failed to ever dribble a ball in the NBA. One of those unlucky four was the very first pick in the draft which belonged to Pittsburgh and that selection was Clifton McNeely. Walt Dropo was drafted three picks later by Providence and he too never made it onto the regular season roster. Next was the St. Louis Bombers’ drafting of Jack Underman who failed to make the team. Finally, there was Larry Killick, the last pick of that first round by the Baltimore Bullets and he too never touched the hardwoods in the NBA.
The Pittsburgh Ironmen got things started with the first pick what follows are the 10 men who became the first ever to be drafted by a professional basketball team in an organized format.