(October 22, 2008) – THE AVERAGE male life expectancy is 75 years. By then, Ken Mink’s college basketball days will barely be over.
Mink, 73, is one of the newest players on Roane State (Tenn.), a junior college about 35 miles west of Knoxville. The 6-foot, 190-pound Mink is listed as a senior on Roane’s roster. No kidding.
The records aren’t clear, but he’s likely the oldest person to ever play college hoops.
Mink, a semi-retired journalist who lives in Farragut, Ky. Tenn., played for Lees (Ky.) Junior College until 1956 when he was dismissed – wrongly, he says – for allegedly covering the coaches’ office with shaving cream. It didn’t hamper his love for hoops, though.
He stayed fit through the years with various athletic activities (Golfing, snow skiing, hang gliding, hiking and basketball), but realized he could still hoop when he was shooting baskets in his driveway last fall.
“I had been knocking down shot after shot, so when I came in the house I told my wife, ‘I’ve still got it,’ ” Mink told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “She said, ‘You’ve got what?’ I said, ‘I can still play.’ “
That prompted Mink to write various schools, asking about hoops opportunities. Roane’s coach, Randy Nesbit, gave him a shot. Mink spent the summer getting into shape, shooting baskets and playing with a senior team from the area in three state tournaments.
Now, he’s playing with guys more than 50-years younger.
For context, most college basketball players are in their late teens or early 20s. Utah State’s Gary Wilkinson will be among the oldest D-I players this season. He just turned 26.
Older athletes occasionally make their marks in college sports, which doesn’t have an age limit for eligible athletes. (Regulations in Division I sports and junior colleges relate to participating in organized sports, not age.)
• Charlie Bickford played for the University of Maine in Augusta in 2006 when he was 52 and a fan favorite.
• The year before, Russ Maki, 52, was studying criminal justice at the Western Upper Peninsula (Mich.) school when he made the roster as a walk-on.
• Even college football’s featured an older player recently. Mike Flynt, 59, dealt with injuries last season but finally played for his alma mater, D-III school Sul Ross State. Even better, he was part of the winning play against Texas Lutheran.
However, Mink has them all beat.
He says he was a good high school player in the ‘50s and had several scholarship offers, but went to Lees because it offered a full ride. He says he averaged about 12 points a game until his dismissal.
He can still shoot, moves pretty well for a septgenarian and has bonded with his younger teammates.
Mink is unlikely to play for more than five or six minutes a game for Roane State, which opens its season on Nov. 3. Conditioning isn’t the issue as Roane State coach Randy Nesbit says Mink can take care of himself on the court. But adjusting to today’s game and picking up the Roane offense could be a challenge.
“There’s a lot of complicated offensive and defensive schemes that I have to learn, but the other players have been helping me every step of the way,” Mink told the Roane County News.
Being a non-traditional student making a 30-mile commute from his home outside Knoxville isn’t easy, either.
Mink takes 12 hours of classes (Spanish, Computer Science, U.S. History and Criminal Justice), practices a couple hours a day and also edits the Web site Travellingadventurer.com, which he founded in 2002.
Roane’s ideal ending to the year – after the Guinness Book of World Records officials reportedly attend the Nov. 3 game – is to “get 20 points this season” and eventually write a book on his Roane State experience.
Then again, he could always shoot for another record.
For a more jaundiced view: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2010/jun/13/75-year-old-plans-play-pro-league/