NCAA champ who made mark with Miners speaks to crowd at ANAD

Four decades ago, he took the ride of a lifetime. Traveling more than 1,900 miles by bus, the 6-foot-6 inch basketball player and four of his African American Texas Western College teammates headed northeast to College Park, Md.

It was 1966 when the Miners dominated the court and beat an all-white, Adolph Rupp-coached University of Kentucky team and won the men's NCAA championship. The racial makeup of the two teams during a time when college sports were only beginning to integrate generated hype, tied with UK's status as basketball royalty.

Number 33 on the court, Nevil Shed, the keynote speaker at Anniston Army Depot's Black History Month program, delved deep into the hearts of an overflowing crowd on Feb. 11 as he shared his story of dreams, faith and determination.

Growing up in New York, Shed had many of the same goals that students have today."But, my parents were told that I couldn't attend college and the best I could become would be a vocational worker," he said. "Realizing that I wanted more, my mother prayed a prayer that produced power."

With likeness of a church congregation, "Amen, that's right," was the audience's response to most of Shed's message.

A recipient of an athletic scholarship, he transferred from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso). Unbeknownst to him, it was this move that would become a turning point in the civil rights movement and transform the future of college athletics. "I could not attend the movies with my peers nor drink from the same water fountain. But I knew that if you want something bad enough, God will put the right people in the right place."

His mother's ultimate desire was for him to attend class and receive a college education. "I was placed in an environment with a man (Coach Don Haskins) who did not notice the color of my skin. He always told me to stay focused."

Shed's accomplishments were commemorated in the 2006 Walt Disney movie Glory Road, which depicts how he and his teammates changed the way black athletes were viewed. During that same year, his image appeared on a special commemorative Wheaties cereal box.

"I believe we're all on the road to glory," he said as he began to sway and work the audience. "We can make sure tomorrow will be better than today. How we get up, determines how the day turns out. After all, it is a 'we' team, not a 'me' team."

Several members of the depot and community helped make the program a huge success, to include preschoolers at the depot's Child Development Center, who were the youngest members to participate in the Equal Employment Opportunity Office sponsored event. They held pictures of African-American leaders and recited tidbits of information from that individual's life.

Under the direction of Dr. Myrtice Collins, the Jacksonville State University Gospel Choir took the stage several times with renditions of The Lord's Prayer, Pressing, and Tell Someone. There were visible signs of hand-clapping, toe-tapping, foot-stomping to the sounds of the music throughout their performances.

Shed went on to play in the NBA for the Boston Celtics. He later served as assistant coach at Texas Western and the University of Texas at San Antonio. He now spends his time encouraging and motivating others around the world. "I'm enjoying this journey," he said in closing. "When you give something, you get something. Instead of good-bye, it's to be continued."