March 16, 2001

AP Sports Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Stanley Hill will be rooting for his alma mater, Iona, in the Midwest Regional.

But he’ll also have an emotional spot for Ole Miss, which invited him to the game as a gesture to heal a 44-year-old wound from the days of segregation.

When Hill took the floor for a game against Mississippi in 1957, Ole Miss players walked off because they were told they couldn’t play against a black.

Iona got a 2-0 forfeit and Hill got a lesson for life, one that came full circle Thursday night on the eve of the Iona-Mississippi first-round game at Kemper Arena.

Hill and his wife, Ruby, earlier accepted an invitation from Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat to be a guest of Ole Miss at the game. And on Thursday, Hill got a game ball presented by coach Rod Barnes and signed by the entire Ole Miss team.

“This is an incredible feeling. I’m just proud to be here, it brings back history,” said the 64-year-old Hill, a retired New York union leader who had been the only black on his college team.

“It also gives me an opportunity to say to my grandkids who are 12, 9 and 6 how important history is and what has been accomplished in the last 44 years.”

Shortly before tip-off that year in Owensboro, Ky., Iona’s players say they were told that the governor of Mississippi, J.P. Coleman, had refused to let the Rebels take the court against a school with a black player.

“I felt hurt and humiliated,” Hill said.

“But the other thing that is important is that in our hotel the Mississippi players came in to see me and said they wanted to play and apologized for what happened.

“It was a tough time for me. I was only 20 years old. I learned a lot and understood how important it was to go from there and learn from there and not be bitter.”

Barnes, who is black, said the gesture of inviting Hill to the game was “something that needed to be done.” He added that his players have also learned from Hill’s story.

“There have been a lot of strides at Ole Miss and in the state since 1957. … Our kids and players and coaches have said we’re sorry. … Now let’s show our respect for Mr. Hill,” Barnes said.

WELCOME BACK: Ryan Humphrey, a third-team all-Big 12 player for Oklahoma during the 1998-99 season, is back at Kemper Arena with Notre Dame as the Irish make their first NCAA appearance since 1990.

Humphrey, who competed in the Big 12 tournament at Kemper with the Sooners, averaged 12 points and nearly nine rebounds for Notre Dame this season. He transferred from Oklahoma following his sophomore season.

Humphrey also has something else his new teammates don’t: NCAA tournament experience. He was with the Sooners in 1999 when they reached the regional semifinals.

“I just really talked about the atmosphere. Everyone gets excited around this time,” Humphrey said. “They just need to know how to control it and go out there and have fun.”

BUBBLE GUM: Xavier’s appearance is its first in the NCAAs since 1998, and coach Skip Prosser’s team is a bit tired of all the “bubble” conversations every year.

“This all-compassing talk of the “bubble teams” wears on kids, especially when the first question asked is what affect this game has on your RPI,” Prosser said, referring to the rating index. “All that talk tends to minimize some of the importance of the regular season.”

Prosser has taken the Musketeers to four NCAA appearances in the last seven years.