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Happy (or sad) Sweet 16® anniversary for Clem Haskins

March 15, 2018 FieldsColumn

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Clem Haskins and his wife Yevette make it a habit to take in the Sweet 16® every year. (Photo by Mike Fields)

BY MIKE FIELDS

Happy anniversary, Clem Haskins.

Or maybe a not so happy anniversary.

It was 55 years ago today (March 15, 1963) that Haskins played his last high school game for Taylor County. He and his Cardinals lost to Lexington Dunbar 65-64 in the Sweet 16® quarterfinals in front of 17,000 fans in Freedom Hall.

“It was one of the saddest days of my life because it was the last time I put on that uniform,” Haskins said Thursday afternoon in Rupp Arena while he and his wife Yevette took in this year’s state tournament.

Haskins scored 25 points for Taylor County against Dunbar, but S.T. Roach’s Bearcats pulled out the victory in the closing minute.

“It was a great basketball game,” Haskins said. “And it was a great tournament for pure talent, Division I talent, NBA talent.”

The 1963 Sweet 16® had remarkable star power. Besides Haskins the roll call included Wes Unseld and Mike Redd of Seneca, Dwight and Greg Smith of Princeton Dotson, Charlie Taylor of Owensboro, and George Wilson and Bobby Washington of Dunbar. 

It was arguably the most talent-rich state tournament in history. Haskins, Unseld, Greg Smith and Washington all went on to play in the NBA. (Dwight Smith drowned in an automobile accident after his senior year at WKU.)

Redd might have been the most gifted of the bunch, but he dropped out of Kentucky Wesleyan and played pro ball in Europe.

The next few years the Sweet 16 featured more big-time players, including Butch Beard and Jim McDaniels.

“We’ve never seen that talent level in Kentucky before or since,” Haskins said of the ’60s. “I’ve been coming to the state tournament since I retired 20 years ago, and I see good players, but no game-changers like we had in those days.”

Haskins was a college star at WKU, and played nine years in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns and Washington Bullets.

He coached college basketball for 19 years, 6 at his alma mater WKU, and 13 at Minnesota.

The constant in his life has been Yevette. They’ve been married 53 years, but Clem said he’s been in love with her since the 5th grade.

Clem the Gem’s real gem is Yevette.

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