October 21, 2014

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Admiral King honors its past: ‘Bubbles’ Harris, Byron Gladden thrilled to have jerseys retired

LORAIN — Bubbles felt lifted and Gladden was all smiles.
It was a happy homecoming for two of Admiral King’s greatest basketball players Friday night as Jim “Bubbles” Harris and Byron Gladden had their jerseys retired during a ceremony at halftime of the Admirals’ 72-56 victory over Maple Heights.
“It’s an honor that you just can’t put into words,” Harris said. “Having your number retired is something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
“I’m extremely excited,” Gladden said. “This right here is what it’s all about. This is probably the best moment of my life right now, honestly.”
Harris, who now lives in Columbus, played for the Admirals from 1964-67 — setting the school’s then-career scoring record with 1,375 points, leading his team to a No. 2 ranking in the state poll and being named the Ohio Player of the Year his senior season.
“I haven’t been back to this gym since 1974,” said Harris, who went on to star at Indiana University and was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1971. “It gives me chills. I have nothing but fond memories here.”
Gladden shared Harris’ sentiment, saying he felt the memories come rushing back the moment he turned into the parking lot.
“I grew up in this gym,” Gladden said. “I came and watched my brothers play basketball.”
Gladden said he was around 9 years old when he first saw Harris’ name in the basketball program and told his older brothers that he was going to break the scoring record.
“I was kind of a cocky kid,” Gladden said. “I told my big brothers those were the things I was going to do, but to actually be able to do it … that was amazing.”
Gladden, who flew up from his home in Charlotte, N.C., for Friday’s ceremony, played for the Admirals from 1990-94. He did indeed break Harris’ scoring record and is still the school record holder with 1,610 points — the fifth-leading career scorer in Lorain County history.
Gladden had a productive senior season — setting several school records, earning Lorain County’s Mr. Basketball award and being named Ohio’s Division I Player of the Year.
“I actually played with Byron,” Admiral King athletic director Bryan Koury said. “I don’t think as a player, coach or athletic director I’ve ever seen a player that was as much of a competitor as he was. It’s unbelievable the things he accomplished when he was in high school.
“I think when I was a kid the first words that I heard as a child were ‘Bubbles’ Harris from my father. He talked about him more than anyone else in our household when I was growing up. It was Bubbles this and Bubbles that.”
Koury’s personal ties to the two legends may have helped motivate Friday’s ceremony, but Koury said that bringing recognition to Lorain’s athletes is something that’s been on his plate for awhile.
“I had said for a long time that I didn’t think we had done a good enough job as a school district of recognizing former athletes,” Koury said. “Obviously we’re doing this retiring of jerseys, but we also want to create a wall of fame in the lobby to try and recognize those who accomplished a lot while they were here and, hopefully, every year we can build on that.”
The two hanging jerseys and the future wall of fame will provide physical evidence of the great things that happened within the gymnasium. It will also provide future athletes the will to try harder.
“(Gladden) actually said I was his motivation, and my motivation was the fellas before me,” Harris said. “So the determination and will to succeed is something that’s been passed down from generation to generation of Admiral King basketball players.”
Contact Shaun Bennett
at 329-7137 or sbennett@chroniclet.com.