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Championship team returns

Unity brings championship team back to Grambling.   

GLENN LEWIS/The Yearbook Members of the 1975-’76 team includ (from l-r):  Joe Jones; Larry Wright; Willie Simmons; Terry Sykes; Herbert Collins; another team member; Larry Wilson; Theodis Johnson; and Obadiah Simmons Jr.,  GSU interim athletic director.

GLENN LEWIS/The Yearbook
Members of the 1975-’76 team includ (from l-r):  Joe Jones; Larry Wright; Willie Simmons; Terry Sykes; Herbert Collins; another
team member; Larry Wilson; Theodis Johnson; and Obadiah Simmons Jr.,  GSU interim athletic director.

 The Grambling State University fans were treated to a blast from the past when the 1975-1976 Men’s basketball team was honored Saturday night before the men’s game. The 1975-1976 was the last basketball team to win a championship.

The university held a celebration brunch, a tour of the GSU campus, a special visit with former assistant coach Howard Willis and a halftime gift presentation. Several of the former players were interviewed by the GSU Sports Radio Network and the local media.

 Current coach Shawn Walker said, “I thought it was awesome to get to meet a team that accomplished at Grambling. They had a chance to talk to the players before the game and it’s always great to be supported by the pioneers.” 

Among the pioneers that spoke with the team was former 1976 first round draft and NBA Champion Larry Wright. Wright was the 14th overall pick for the Washington Bullets. Wright also coached the Tigers during 1990-1992 and 1999-2008. He is also the father of Lance Wright, the pastor for the G-Men football team. 

While playing at Grambling, Wright was named the Southwestern Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year. He was also a two-time All-SWAC selection for the remainder of his career and first team NCAA Small College All-America. 

Wright led the university to the 1976 SWAC Tournament Championship. In 1975-76 he was named SWAC Player of the Year and he declared for the draft when he  was a junior. He is still one of the most decorated players in school history.

“We talked to the guys in the dressing room,” said Wright.    

GLENN LEWIS/The Yearbook Willie Simmons (l) shakes hands with Dr. Willie Larkin.

Willie Simmons (l) shakes hands with Dr. Willie Larkin.

“There’s nothing more dear to my heart than Grambling State University. When I came out of high school I could have gone anywhere in the nation, but I chose Grambling State University and 40 years later if I had to do it all again, I’ll do it the same way,” he said.

“I chose Grambling because my high school coach went to Grambling and he felt the same way about Grambling that I feel about Grambling now.”

Grambling Student Government Association president Jonathan Wallace attended Rayville High School, where Wright is the associate principal.

“I wanted him (Wallace) to experience that I had, so I recruited him. He’s your SGA president, never made a B in high school all A’s. So I not only talk about Grambling but I try to send at least 10 kids from my high school to Grambling State University every year!”

Another trailblazer among the team was the 1978 second round draft pick Terry Sykes of the Washington Bullets. Sykes ruled the SWAC with a firm grip in his senior season. He averaged 23.8 points per game, 11 rebounds per game, shot a ridiculous 52.6 percent from the field and an astonishing 70. 6 percent from the field. 

“It was a great deal being back on campus with all the old guys,” said Sykes. “Some we haven’t seen in a while because we all are distant, but it was a very happy reunion for us all. It was good to see the players, students and see how much the campus has changed.”

“The unity we had was the first thing I remembered, all the changes that were made; we had a couple of fishermen so we stayed back there at the fishing pond (near Eddie G. Robinson Stadium), so a lot of change’s have been done for the better.” 

“It wasn’t like we get out of practice and didn’t see each other till the next practice. 

“We were always in one another’s room watching TV, talking about practice, slipping in the gym when we weren’t suppose to. We were always as one,” added Sykes. 

In joking spirt both Wright and Sykes agreed their championship team would beat the current Grambling team. 

“It wouldn’t be close (laughing) that’s not to say anything negative about this team or any team, said Wright. “But on the team I had, I had was a draft choice, Willie Simmons was a draft choice, Theodis Johnson was draft choice, Sykes was a draft cfhoice. Could we beat them it wouldn’t even be close.”

” Yes we could beat them in our prime,” Sykes said. “We had a good team concept of what we wanted to do. We were just a basic team; one thing dunking wasn’t allowed doing those days we had the three-point line. So it was just scoring, get to the bucket. 

But we looked out for each other team picks, rebounding, if you got beat someone else took your man, all that came with hanging together at practice and knowing what your man was going to do.” 

Some of the former players traveled from Baton Rouge (LA), Birmingham (AL), and Houston (TX). Gifts were provided by the Athletic Department and the Department of Student Activities.