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With the NBA resuming play, former ETSU, Golden State point guard Keith "Mister" Jennings takes a stroll down memory lane

With the NBA resuming play, former ETSU, Golden State point guard Keith "Mister" Jennings takes a stroll down memory lane

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The 2019-20 National Basketball Association season will officially resume Thursday in the Orlando “bubble” after a hiatus of more than four months due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

It will be a unique scene as 22 teams compete at a resort on the grounds of Walt Disney World sans fans and with plenty of safety precautions and protocols in place. The NBA Finals are set to begin on Sept. 30.

“If I had been in that situation that the players are in now, I’d be trying to play,” said former East Tennessee State University and Golden State Warriors point guard Keith “Mister” Jennings. “Because I love the game that much.”

Hoops junkies were able to fill some of the basketball-less void during the pandemic thanks to the 10-part documentary series that aired on ESPN in April and May known as “The Last Dance,” which magnificently profiled the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s.

“I didn’t miss an episode,” Jennings said. “M.J. was a beast; the best player ever in my eyes. He didn’t lead me, but I’m sure I would have followed.”

The 5-foot-7 Jennings forged his own unique path – which began in Culpeper, Virginia – to the top level of the sport and played in 164 regular-season contests and three playoff games for the Warriors from 1992-95. His final career NBA stat line: 6.6 points, 3.7 assists, 1.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals per game.

“Keith Jennings is a fine player,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Bill Fitch told the Los Angeles Times in 1994.

Miami Heat coach Kevin Loughery remarked to reports after his team was torched by Mister on one occasion: “We knew that Jennings could shoot.”

After Chris Webber was traded from the Warriors to the Washington Bullets and played against Golden State for the first time he told the L.A. Times, “It’s going to be great to see [Latrell] Sprewell. And Chris Mullin. Keith Jennings. Those are the only ones on the team I really respect and want to see.”

Mister Jennings once dropped 23 points on the Denver Nuggets, had 15 assists one night against the Sacramento Kings and came up with six steals in a game against the Detroit Pistons.

He is now 51-years-old and the head women’s basketball coach at Lees-McRae College in North Carolina.

“I was watching TNT one night and this was before the Warriors got really good,” Jennings said. “They did something bad and [analyst] Kenny Smith said, ‘Mister Jennings would be turning over in his grave.’ I was like, ‘What Kenny? I’m not dead.’ ”

That just goes to show that Jennings left his own mark during a time when the NBA was thriving.

“It was great playing in that era,” Jennings said. “You had to be tough. Hand-checking, hard fouls, physical play in the paint. … You were going against somebody really good every night.”

Jennings went against many of the all-time greats and took time to share some insights and tales from his days competing against the legends while he was with Golden State during that golden era:

Charles Barkley (1993 NBA MVP, Hall of Famer): “There are guys in the league who talk trash and don’t back it up and then there are guys who talk trash and you know they are going to back it up. He was in the latter. He dropped that 56 against us [in the 1994 playoffs]. That was an incredible performance. I remember in Game 3 [of the best-of-five series] the Suns were up on us and he was having that incredible game and he said to me, ‘You know what little guy? Y’all talk a lot of [trash], but we are gonna sweep y’all.’ We’re down seven or eight now with about two minutes left. I was like dang, but I couldn’t tell him ‘Yes’ ”

Shaquille O-Neal (Hall of Famer, 15-time NBA All-Star): “I first ran into Shaq when I was at ETSU and we played in the [1990] NCAA tournament in Knoxville. We lost to Georgia Tech and they played right before us. I walked by him in the daggone hallway and was like, ‘Wow, this is a big guy.’ A few years later when I played against him when he was with Orlando, he said. ‘It’d be nice to play with you little guy.’ I was like, ‘Man, who you telling?’ That pick-and-roll we were running would be incredible with him. Shaq was one of those cool guys.

“When I was coaching at Bluefield College we were playing a game in Charlotte [at the NBA arena] and Shaq was with Cleveland then. We got to the gym when they were finishing shoot-around. He was walking out and I was like, ‘Big Fella.’ He turned around and looked at me and it took him a while to figure out who I was and the he smiled and said, ‘Mister Jennings.’ It was good to know that some of the guys remember me to an extent.”

Scottie Pippen (Six-time NBA champion, Hall of Famer): “Another cool guy. Mike had retired [following the 1992-93 season] and they came to Golden State the next year and beat us at our place. I remember Carlos Rogers dunked on Scottie. Right after that they were getting ready to shoot a free throw and I happened to be standing beside him and I said, ‘Dang, you all right Scottie?’ He started laughing and said, ‘Yeah, man. That young fella dunked on me didn’t he?’ ‘Yes, he did,’ I replied. He had a very high basketball IQ and was very humble.”

John Stockton and Karl Malone (Utah Jazz teammates from 1985-2003, Hall of Famers): “True teammates. Awesome chemistry. The Mailman [Malone] signed some shoes for my dad.”

Gary Payton (Nine-time NBA All-Star known as “The Glove”): “Cool brother. I remember him and [Warriors guard] Tim Hardaway would always go at it. It would be a preseason game and you would think a fight would break out when they were competing against each other. When I got a chance to talk to him, G.P. showed me some love. He always liked the way I shot the ball. He’d say ‘Mister Jennings, you got that pretty jumpshot, man.’ It was good hearing him compliment my jumper, because he was the toughest [defender] I played against.”

B.J. Armstrong (Three-time NBA champ as a guard with the Chicago Bulls): “Good guy. Right place at the right time.”

Horace Grant (Four-time NBA champ, three with the Jordan-era Bulls): “I didn’t chat with Horace too much. He was one of those tough players and a glue guy who did the dirty work and helped Mike get three of those championships.”

Chris Webber (Five-time NBA All-Star, a teammate of Jennings with the 1993-94 Warriors): “Probably the nicest big man I played with.”

Clyde Drexler (Ten-time NBA All-Star, Hall of Famer): “A quiet, cool brother. Could only dribble with his right hand, but you couldn’t steal the ball.”

Hakeem Olajuwon (1994 NBA MVP, Hall of Famer): “The Dream. Enough said.”

Manute Bol (7-foot-7, a teammate with Jennings on the 1994-95 Warriors): “Again, that was the case of the big guys hanging out with the smaller guys. He used to call me Biggie Smalls and said I was a little guy with a big heart. He told me I played the game fearless. We would have shooting contests a lot in practice and Manute could shoot the 3. It would surprise a lot of people how well he shot it. His son [Bol Bol of the Denver Nuggets] is going to be a really good player.”

thayes@bristolnews.com | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570

BY TIM HAYESBRISTOL HERALD COURIERThe 2019-20 National Basketball Association season will officially resume Thursday in the Orlando “bubble” after a hiatus of more than four months due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.It will be a unique scene as 22 teams compete at a resort on the grounds of Walt Disney World sans fans and with plenty of safety precautions and protocols in place. The NBA Finals are set to begin on Sept. 30.“If I had been in that situation that the players are in now, I’d be trying to play,” said former East Tennessee State University and Golden State Warriors point guard Keith “Mister” Jennings. “Because I love the game that much.”Hoops junkies were able to fill some of the basketball-less void during the pandemic thanks to the 10-part documentary series that aired on ESPN in April and May known as “The Last Dance,” which magnificently profiled the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s.“I didn’t miss an episode,” Jennings said. “M.J. was a beast; the best player ever in my eyes. He didn’t lead me, but I’m sure I would have followed.”The 5-foot-7 Jennings forged his own unique path – which began in Culpeper, Virginia – to the top level of the sport and played in 164 regular-season contests and three playoff games for the Warriors from 1992-95. His final career NBA stat line: 6.6 points, 3.7 assists, 1.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals per game.“Keith Jennings is a fine player,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Bill Fitch told the Los Angeles Times in 1994.Miami Heat coach Kevin Loughery remarked to reports after his team was torched by Mister on one occasion: “We knew that Jennings could shoot.”After Chris Webber was traded from the Warriors to the Washington Bullets and played against Golden State for the first time he told the L.A. Times, “It’s going to be great to see [Latrell] Sprewell. And Chris Mullin. Keith Jennings. Those are the only ones on the team I really respect and want to see.”Mister Jennings once dropped 23 points on the Denver Nuggets, had 15 assists one night against the Sacramento Kings and came up with six steals in a game against the Detroit Pistons.He is now 51-years-old and the head women’s basketball coach at Lees-McRae College in North Carolina.“I was watching TNT one night and this was before the Warriors got really good,” Jennings said. “They did something bad and [analyst] Kenny Smith said, ‘Mister Jennings would be turning over in his grave.’ I was like, ‘What Kenny? I’m not dead.’ ”That just goes to show that Jennings left his own mark during a time when the NBA was thriving.“It was great playing in that era,” Jennings said. “You had to be tough. Hand-checking, hard fouls, physical play in the paint. … You were going against somebody really good every night.”Jennings went against many of the all-time greats and took time to share some insights and tales from his days competing against the legends while he was with Golden State during that golden era:Charles Barkley (1993 NBA MVP, Hall of Famer): “There are guys in the league who talk trash and don’t back it up and then there are guys who talk trash and you know they are going to back it up. He was in the latter. He dropped that 56 against us [in the 1994 playoffs]. That was an incredible performance. I remember in Game 3 [of the best-of-five series] the Suns were up on us and he was having that incredible game and he said to me, ‘You know what little guy? Y’all talk a lot of [trash], but we are gonna sweep y’all.’ We’re down seven or eight now with about two minutes left. I was like dang, but I couldn’t tell him ‘Yes’ ”Shaquille O-Neal (Hall of Famer, 15-time NBA All-Star): “I first ran into Shaq when I was at ETSU and we played in the [1990] NCAA tournament in Knoxville. We lost to Georgia Tech and they played right before us. I walked by him in the daggone hallway and was like, ‘Wow, this is a big guy.’ A few years later when I played against him when he was with Orlando, he said. ‘It’d be nice to play with you little guy.’ I was like, ‘Man, who you telling?’ That pick-and-roll we were running would be incredible with him. Shaq was one of those cool guys.“When I was coaching at Bluefield College we were playing a game in Charlotte [at the NBA arena] and Shaq was with Cleveland then. We got to the gym when they were finishing shoot-around. He was walking out and I was like, ‘Big Fella.’ He turned around and looked at me and it took him a while to figure out who I was and the he smiled and said, ‘Mister Jennings.’ It was good to know that some of the guys remember me to an extent.”Scottie Pippen (Six-time NBA champion, Hall of Famer): “Another cool guy. Mike had retired [following the 1992-93 season] and they came to Golden State the next year and beat us at our place. I remember Carlos Rogers dunked on Scottie. Right after that they were getting ready to shoot a free throw and I happened to be standing beside him and I said, ‘Dang, you all right Scottie?’ He started laughing and said, ‘Yeah, man. That young fella dunked on me didn’t he?’ ‘Yes, he did,’ I replied. He had a very high basketball IQ and was very humble.”John Stockton and Karl Malone (Utah Jazz teammates from 1985-2003, Hall of Famers): “True teammates. Awesome chemistry. The Mailman [Malone] signed some shoes for my dad.”Gary Payton (Nine-time NBA All-Star known as “The Glove”): “Cool brother. I remember him and [Warriors guard] Tim Hardaway would always go at it. It would be a preseason game and you would think a fight would break out when they were competing against each other. When I got a chance to talk to him, G.P. showed me some love. He always liked the way I shot the ball. He’d say ‘Mister Jennings, you got that pretty jumpshot, man.’ It was good hearing him compliment my jumper, because he was the toughest [defender] I played against.”B.J. Armstrong (Three-time NBA champ as a guard with the Chicago Bulls): “Good guy. Right place at the right time.”Horace Grant (Four-time NBA champ, three with the Jordan-era Bulls): “I didn’t chat with Horace too much. He was one of those tough players and a glue guy who did the dirty work and helped Mike get three of those championships.”Chris Webber (Five-time NBA All-Star, a teammate of Jennings with the 1993-94 Warriors): “Probably the nicest big man I played with.”Clyde Drexler (Ten-time NBA All-Star, Hall of Famer):  “A quiet, cool brother. Could only dribble with his right hand, but you couldn’t steal the ball.”Hakeem Olajuwon (1994 NBA MVP, Hall of Famer): “The Dream. Enough said.”Manute Bol (7-foot-7, a teammate with Jennings on the 1994-95 Warriors): “Again, that was the case of the big guys hanging out with the smaller guys. He used to call me Biggie Smalls and said I was a little guy with a big heart. He told me I played the game fearless. We would have shooting contests a lot in practice and Manute could shoot the 3. It would surprise a lot of people how well he shot it. His son [Bol Bol of the Denver Nuggets] is going to be a really good player.”

thayes@bristolnews.com | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570

thayes@bristolnews.com | Twitter:@Hayes_BHCSports | (276) 645-2570

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“The wins and championships were great, but watching a group of young women committed to Christ is something I will never forget,” Davis said. “What an incredible run I was blessed to be a part of over the years coaching at Richlands. We were truly blessed over the years to have great players, coaches, parents and community support for the Lady Blues. I wish nothing but the best for the program.”

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