Dave Hoppen will be introduced Tuesday night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center when the Huskers play their first game in the power-packed Big Ten Conference, but NU's all-time leading basketball scorer won't be the only Nebraska Hall-of-Famer supporting this historic launch that sends, of all schools, Wisconsin to Lincoln.
Fellow Nebraska Basketball Hall-of-Famers Willie Campbell, Bruce Chubick, Rex Ekwall, Beau Reid and Bob Siegel are among the more than two dozen ex-Huskers that will be recognized before Tuesday's 8:05 p.m. nationally televised tipoff. They will be there to commemorate the game and add a festive touch with NU students on holiday break.
The No. 11 Badgers are a tough draw for the 8-3 Huskers because they're a Big Ten team that mirrors Nebraska's penchant for defense, and they have a well-earned reputation for making every offensive possession count. Last week, after Nebraska beat Central Michigan, 72-69, the Huskers Sports Network tandem of Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison (another Husker who will be on the floor to show his support) said they wouldn't be surprised if NU's maiden Big Ten voyage ended up being a game where both teams score in the 40s. They even suggested it might be a game where both teams score in the high 30s, and they did not appear to be kidding.
And that's just fine with Stan Matzke and John Matzke, a father-son Nebraska lettermen combination that will account for two Huskers eager to show their support for NU's basketball program in general and head coach Doc Sadler in particular. "Doc's a good coach, and we have a great future with him. We just need to get healthy," said Stan Matzke, now retired and living on 80 acres in Southeast Lincoln, raising pecan and black walnut trees after serving as captain of Jerry Bush's first NU basketball team in 1954. Matzke also won the team's Joe Brown Sportsmanship Award two years in a row.
First Game as a Husker: Same as Prep Days
Stan Matzke had the privilege of starting the first game of his freshman year at Nebraska in the same gym he played prep basketball. "It was a poignant memory for me because we were playing at the Coliseum, and that was my home court at Teachers' College High School," he recalled, adding that the last game he played as a Husker was a win over mighty Kansas at Hoch Auditorium in Lawrence.
Matzke expects few fans will remember someone getting introduced from so long ago. "I'm old," he said. "I didn't even play in the Big Eight. I played in the Big Seven." But he still played against all of Nebraska's traditional rivals and is excited to see his alma mater not only move to the Big Ten this year, but also become an anchor tenant in a state-of-the-art downtown arena in 2013.
What a difference a home arena like Nebraska's will be from the days that Stan Matzke played. "People would probably never believe that I played a game at the University of Miami in my bare feet," he said. "Their floor was laid over an ice rink, and water kept bubbling up through the floor, so we had to adapt."
Son John Matzke has heard all of his dad's basketball stories and appreciates every one of them. "I was just proud to be able to follow in his footsteps as a Husker," he said, acknowledging his greatest collegiate accomplishments came in the classroom. Twice, John Matzke was named Academic All-Big Eight, topped later by second-team Academic All-America status.
Lincoln East Math Chair is a Humble Man
Today, John is a math teacher and department chair at Lincoln East High School, where two of his three children attend. His oldest, Luke, has played on the Husker women's basketball team practice squad for Connie Yori. Like his relationship with his mom and dad, John and his wife have a good relationship with their three kids. "They give me a hard time about a plaque I won as a sophomore at Nebraska," he said. "It was 'Most Improved Player' my sophomore year. They said "Wow!"
Like his dad, John can laugh at himself. He still remembers dropping off tickets at the North will-call booth. On his way back into the building, an NU ticket-taker refused to admit him. "I told him I was on the team, and he said: 'You're too tall to be on our team,'" the 6-foot-6 younger Matzke remembers.
His favorite memory as a Husker was "having the opportunity to visit with Hank Iba before practice one day in Moe's office," John said of his coach's father, an Oklahoma State icon. John's greatest on-court memory was scoring 17 points against Kansas. He said the outburst was about six times his normal average.
Like his father, John always put team above self. "My most memorable moment as a team was beating Missouri badly at their place when they were ranked No. 1 in the nation," John recalled. "Kent Pavelka was whispering on his broadcast because Mizzou fans were throwing things at him as the game ended. It was my freshman year. I didn't play, but I had a great seat, and I will never forget that."
Players, Coaches Need Husker Fan Support
As the Huskers prepare to write their own book of memories in their new conference, John Matzke is sensing "some real excitement about the future of Husker basketball," he said. "I'm excited that Nebraska will play in a new conference starting with the Wisconsin game, and two years from now, we will play in a new arena. It's an exciting time of transition for Lincoln as a city and for Husker Basketball as a program.
"I know we have key injuries, and we're looking at a grind, playing so many ranked teams right off the bat," Matzke said, "but I believe the pieces are in place to build some momentum as we enter a new home and a new conference. That's why we'll be there to support Doc. We hope our fans rally around him, too. Doc's team will keep working hard no matter what, and we just want them all to know we're proud of them, believe in them and will be cheering for them as we enter a new era for Husker Basketball!"
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Voices from Across the Nation
Welcome to the Big 10! Nebraska basketball will fit in fine. I believe they just need to share the ball more, play hard on defense and have better clock management. And what better first conference game than Wisconsin? I'm hoping for the Nebraska upset. I am very excited about Nebraska being in the Big 10 Conference. It has been over 100 years in the making - since Nebraska first applied to the Big 10 back in 1900. This is where Nebraska belongs. Had they been admitted to the Big 10 decades ago we could be talking about historic rivalries with Iowa, Wisconsin and/or Michigan. Leon Spencer, Purdue Class of '96, Petaluma California
I'll be watching this one on ESPN. If Nebraska can beat Texas when Texas is No. 1, Nebraska can beat Wisconsin when they're No. 13. We just need to put the clamps on defense and don't shoot so many threes. If we do that, we'll be right there at the end. Wisconsin can beat anybody, so we must play smart and with patience so we can pull off the upset and generate some momentum. BTW: Just because the students are on vacation is no reason for the fans to sit on their duffs. Be part of the action! If someone dives for a loose ball or hustles down court to block a shot, treat that play like a three-point swish. Stand up and cheer! Go Big Red!! John Thomas, Omaha, Nebraska
Entertaining read on the Matzkes. Looking at the past helps me appreciate the present. Tomorrow night is a very big game, and it's in Lincoln. Wish we weren't so beat up, but still hoping this team can surprise everyone. After that football introduction at Wisconsin, we need some payback. Let's return the favor! Chuck Sampson, Des Moines, Iowa