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Archive for Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tracking down team fun, but difficult, task

Google, cell phone indispensible

February 16, 2008

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The phone rang for a man I presumed to be Lincoln Minor, the former Kansas University basketball player who played 34 games in the 1987-88 season.

"Hello?" the man on the other end answered.

"Hi, is this Lincoln?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"The Lincoln who played basketball for the Kansas Jayhawks?"

"No," the man replied. "This is his father."

Hey, that's progress.

The elder Lincoln Minor, perhaps the nicest man I've chatted with in a long while, sent me in the right direction toward his son.

Another helpful hand in what turned out to be a daunting task.

With regular KU basketball writer Gary Bedore consumed covering the current Jayhawks, and football season now in the past, the job was mine: Find out the latest on all 17 members of the 1988 Kansas basketball team, which shocked the world by winning the national championship 20 years ago.

Knowing very little about the team - I was just a kid in 1988, and my fandom didn't extend much past the Kansas City Royals - I read up on them, compiled a list of all 17 guys and started to piece together just how I'd catch up with all of them.

First, I set aside the players who are close to KU to this day - Danny Manning, Chris Piper, Mike Maddox.

I knew what they were up to.

Next, I checked off others I knew the whereabouts of - Kevin Pritchard, Milt Newton and Mark Randall all are working in the NBA.

I also was aware that Mike Masucci died far too young three years ago.

That left 10 mysteries and a few weeks to find them.

I then did what most people under the age of 30 do when they have a question of any sort these days.

Google them all.

The Internet gave me clues on Clint Normore, Marvin Mattox and Otis Livingston, and I eventually had great conversations with all three.

A couple of the players I chatted with early on helped me locate a few others, including one I never would've found otherwise - Scooter Barry, who was in Germany with his wife and two kids. A back-and-forth e-mail conversation caught me up with Scooter, who was super nice and helpful.

A relative located Marvin Branch for me, and an old teammate helped me get in touch with Jeff Gueldner, who lives in nearby Olathe. An extensive Internet search found Archie Marshall living in Dallas.

And, of course, a phone book search found me Lincoln Minor Sr., a big San Diego Chargers fan but NOT the right Lincoln.

In all, I found the whereabouts of 16 of the 17 players. Not bad, but one short of my goal.

It was exhausting. My cell phone rang at odd times, day and night. I carried a notebook in my back pocket for three straight weeks just in case someone I was pursuing called at any time. I had to be ready.

But overall, it was fun. Almost every player I spoke to was happy to help and enjoyed reminiscing about one of his greatest athletic thrills. Many wanted me to say hi to old KU staffers who still are around, which I tried to do. Most asked me who else I talked to from that team and what they're up to now.

It was a special group in 1988, and to give them an opportunity to share their story 20 years later was a neat experience.

That said, I just hope I don't have to find all 105 members of the Orange Bowl football team 20 years from now. To multiply this project by six would take me to an early grave.

- Sports reporter Ryan Wood can be reached at 832-7152.

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