Pierce, Jamison led a 7-member class to the College Hoops Hall

Pierce, Jamison led a 7-member class to the College Hoops Hall

Kansas City, Missouri Paul Pierce and Ontown Jamison forged a lasting friendship when they arrived in St. Louis in April 1995 at the McDonald’s All-American Game, the traditional show for the nation’s top high school basketball players.

It continued through their college years, when Pierce starred in Kansas and Jamieson for fellow North Carolina bloopers. Pearce has struggled through his long career in the NBA, spending the most time with Boston and Jamieson after they bounced back in the league.

They revived it this weekend, too, when Pierce and Jamison led a seven-man class that included Hersey Hawkins and the late Lane Bid who was inducted into the National College Basketball Hall of Fame.

“We played each other in the NBA for 16 years,” Jamison said. “There was always a mutual respect for each other, through all the fights we had. We formed a friendship and I saw him at the All-Star Game or just coming to LA, when we were in the same establishment or the same restaurant, he always showed respect for each other.

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“For me to go into the Hall of Fame with him,” Jamison said, “it made it even more special.”

Pierce and Jamison weren’t the only two stars who emerged from the famous American McDonald’s game. Kevin Garnett skipped college for NBA greatness, while Vince Carter, Stephen Marbury, Chauncey Billups, Ron Mercer and Sheriff Abdul Rahim were among those who tapped exceptional college careers into prominent professional careers.

“It was really surreal to know that I was able to make my mark in the basketball game on almost every level,” said Pierce. “As a kid growing up, I don’t know how much you think about it. You just work as hard as you can and at the end of the day, you see where you end up. But to be honored at the NBA level and at the college level is just a testament to the hard work you put in.”

While Pierce and Jamison were chasing the national titles for traditional college authorities, Hawkins took an entirely different path. The boy who describes himself as “the boy of the mother” headed a few hours south to Peoria, where, after playing center for Westinghouse High School in Chicago, had the opportunity to play Bradley’s shooting ranger.

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Hawkins finished by starting all 125 games he’s played with the Braves, scoring 3,008 points and leading the nation with 36.3 points per game in 1987-88. He was also a member of the 1988 Olympic team that took the bronze medal before a distinguished 13 season NBA career.

“That’s the height of it all,” said Hawkins, “to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.” “It was an honor, especially to have a look at the group of guys I went to the Hall of Fame with. It was great to celebrate with them.”

Bias is as reminiscent of the tragic circumstances surrounding his death as his football career, where he was a star for four years for Maryland in the mid-1980s. Picked second overall by the Celtics in the 1986 draft, he then came home and attended an off-campus party where he died of an arrhythmia caused by a cocaine overdose.

His mother, Lonise Bias, said, “When you talk about legacy, I think about how he passed away, and one of the things I tell young people is, when you have a dream and you’re trying to get to the top, you have to be aware of those in your sphere of influence and be careful about the decisions that you make. I try to convince them of the importance of knowing that they must take care of themselves, and that self-preservation is the first law of nature.”

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Longtime Belmont coach Rick Bird, who won more than 800 games before retiring in 2019 was also recruited; Tom Binders, who led Fordham to the NIT and Texas, Houston, Rhode Island and George Washington to the NCAA Championship; and David Greenwood, twice-a-year PAC10 player for UCLA.

The class was honored during a celebratory weekend that included the Hall of Fame Classic Monday night at the T-Mobile Center, where No. 14 Illinois played Cincinnati and No. 13 Arkansas faced Kansas State in the semifinals.

“Anytime you can call yourself a Hall of Famer,” Jamieson said, “it speaks a lot to all the people who have a part of that, from teachers to parents, but the most important to me is Coach (Bill) Guthridge, Coach (Dean).” Smith, my teammates at the University of North Carolina, it’s such an honor to be here with these recruits.

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