FSU Hall of Fame Inductee
Where did your basketball career begin? I grew up in Indiana and my father was a tenant farmer. The first paycheck he got was $17.50 for a week of working. I lived in Rush County but I went to school in Decatur County where I played basketball. If you were born in that county, you could go to that school; therefore, when we moved to Rush County because Dad got a job, I was still able to go back to Decatur and play ball my senior year.
How did you get from Indiana to Florida? My high school coach took a doctoral program at Indiana University and was in class with Don Veller, who was the football coach at Florida State University. Don asked my coach, Wayne Ziegler, if anyone could play basketball. He said, “Well, I have this guy Dick Artmeier, but we’ve never won any tournaments and no one has ever seen him play, but he’s a scrappy player.”
So he took my name, gave it to the basketball coach, and lo-and-behold, one day Mom had a letter from FSU. I opened it up and they said, “We heard you’re a pretty good player. If you come and make the team, we’ll give you the out-of-state tuition.”
Was there a fear of failure? I asked my agriculture teacher what I should do. He said, “Look at it this way, if you go and don’t make the team, you can always come back and at least be able to say you’ve been to Florida.” It made sense to me, so I bought some clothes, packed them in a suitcase, and caught a Greyhound bus for $12.75. I went to Tallahassee to enroll in school and play basketball. I made the team as a freshman and ended up in the hall of fame in 1984.
What were your successes? I was always guarding the high scorer on every team we played. I held West Virginia All-American Rodney “Hot Rod” Hundley to seven points in the 1955 Orange Bowl Tournament. I was the third-leading rebounder on the team because I would let players jump and when they came down, I would take the ball away from them.
What are some of your best memories? I met my wife, June, when I missed a layup and fell in the lap of an FSU cheerleader. I got up carefully, apologized, and noticed her beautiful face. We dated and our first kiss was in front of a sweet-smelling tea olive tree. I have a bush planted in our garden.
PHOTO: Fred Lopez