There they are, in their rightful place hanging high on the walls of an office full of memorabilia representing 20 years of basketball greatness at Tarleton State University.
They are the team photos of the 19 groups of young men who have represented Tarleton on the collegiate hardwood under veteran coach Lonn Reisman. They look down from above, overseeing the continuation of the legacy they helped to build.
For one day at least, the pictures on the walls will come to life, as players representing all of Reisman's 19 teams gather at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Thompson Student Center on the Tarleton campus for the coach's 20th anniversary banquet. Tickets for the buffet dinner and ceremony can be purchased for $10 each, with all reservations required by noon today. Call (254) 968-9178 for more information. Dr. Lamar Johanson and David Tomlinson, two of the basketball program's most faithful supporters and biggest fans through the years, will join several past players in speaking at the banquet.
“It just doesn't happen in the game of basketball or in sports anymore, Reisman said of spending 20 years at the same school. “Very rarely do you see that. It's hard to look at a school when you're hired and imagine being there 20 years.
As Reisman prepares for the banquet, he circles his office looking at the team photos, pausing to reflect on each of the teams, their accomplishments and on some of the individuals who accomplished great things, both while playing basketball at Tarleton, and beyond in the game of life.
He stops to remember the 1988 team, his first at Tarleton, and the team he credits for building the foundation for the success of the program through the years.
“Those kids came here to play for a team that had only winning season in 27 years, since 1961, Reisman said. “They came in here with me and we won 18 games that year, coming off a three win season the year before.
As Reisman recites some of the players who stand out in his memory from that first team, he gets the same excited, competitive look in his eye is so often seen as he paces the length of the bench in a tight game.
“There was Mark Smith, Jim Moreno, Jeff McFadden and Roy Howard-that was a tremendous group.
As he progresses around his office, he stops again under photos of teams from 1992-1994 that made it to the NAIA National Tournament, and points out the likes of Chris Gibbons and Todd McCormick, among others.
Two teams that will always stand out in Reisman's memory are the ones he coached in the transition years of 1994-95 and 1995-96, when Tarleton was initiating its athletic scholarship program and making the move to Division II of the NCAA, and into the Lone Star Conference.
“Those were two very difficult years, but we didn't back down from anybody, Reisman said. “A lot of people back then thought, you're gonna get killed.' But I believed the university and community would support us. That's when the Texan Club got together, and our corporate partnership program was established.
The 1996-97 team photo spurs memories of Aaron King, Petrocelli Wilder, Bobby Davis, and a pair of greats in Stephan Sheckles and Ryan Huntley. That group landed Tarleton in the LSC Tournament for the first time in school history, finishing with a record of 18-11.
The 1997-98 team featured an incoming group of freshmen that is particularly special to the veteran coach. His son Chris Reisman, who is now an assistant coach for the Texans, was a member of that recruiting class, as was Collat Johnson, who won an NCAA national championship in the high jump in addition to starring in basketball. That Texan Team went 19-9, and steered Tarleton basketball around the corner from good to great and began to head it in the direction of the elite.
“We won 19 games, Reisman said. “And then we started thinking, When are we going to make it to the NCAA Tournament?'
Reisman and the Texans didn't have to wait much longer, as the Texans reached the LSC championship game and advanced to the national playoffs for the first time in school history in the spring of 1999. That group was led by Danny Jones, Chavis McCollister, Vincent Bridgewater, Marcus Jacobs and a young freshman named Cornell Jones.
Cornell Jones would go on to become a staple of Texans basketball for four years, playing in four national tournaments and in the school's first ever Elite Eight.