Where are they now? CCU’s 1993 NCAA basketball team

Tony-Dunkin-Big-SouthThe last time Coastal Carolina went to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament was in 1993. Things were a little different then, with the school still affiliated with the University of South Carolina and playing in Kimbel gymnasium. The school colors for the University of South Carolina – Coastal Carolina College were red and black, and Kimbel gym held a capacity of 1800 people.

The Chanticleers defeated Winthrop University in the Big South Tournament, held in Charleston, SC that year, earning a 16 seed and berth in the NCAA Tournament.  They went on to face the “Fab Five” of Michigan University in the first round of the tournament, falling 84-53. Here is the story of life after that game for those members of the 1993 Chanticleers.

Tony “Slam” Dunkin—- After graduating from Coastal Carolina, Dunkin played in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) for the Fargo-Moorhead Beez. He also played seasons in Hong Kong, Belgium, Cyprus, and Hungary.

In 1997, Dunkin signed a contract to return to America to play with the Oklahoma City Cavalry of the CBA. During the summer before he was due to report to training camp, an injury to his Achilles ended his career.

Dunkin spent the next 8 years working as a finance manager in Marion and 2 years working with Conway High School.

For the past five years, he’s worked with the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department as a job readiness training coordinator. He helps ex-convicts move into the workforce, teaching them skills such as proper attire and timeliness.   This past season, he served as an assistant coach with the boy’s basketball team at Marion High School.

Dunkin has been married for 16 years to Jennifer Dunkin, they have three kids and reside in Marion.  He also serves as a Deacon at Canaan Land Revival Temple.

Dunkin remembers his role as a leader on the 1993 team, “We had an awesome squad that year. It was a real young squad. I spent so much time getting the others ready for the game, and didn’t do as much as I should have preparing myself.”

He is best known for being the only NCAA Division I men’s basketball player to be honored as his conference player of the year all four times. In 2003–04 he was part of the inaugural 11-person class inducted into the Big South Conference Hall of Fame.

“If I had to it all over again would I play at Coastal again. I would most certainly do it all over again there. As a college experience, nothing could have matched Coastal. I sure miss it,” said Dunkin.

 

Mohammed Acha

In 1995, Acha made it to the Nigerian senior national basketball team, D’Tigers and was to remain a key member of the national side until 2001. He was a member of the bronze medal winning basketball team at the 1999 edition of the All Africa Games in South Africa. He also represented Nigeria in the FIBA African Championships in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001. In the 1995 Championship, he was the tournament’s top scorer with 20 ppg.

Acha was a Lebanese Basketball League Champion with Club Sagesse of Ashrafieh, Lebanon from 1998 to 2001. During his career with Club Sagesse, he was also an Arab Clubs Champion in 1998, Asian Basketball Club Champion in 1999 (where he was voted the Best Playmaker at the Championship) and Lebanese Basketball Cup winner in 2001.

Acha also spent time with the Louisiana Crawdads (CBA), Palm Beach Stingrays (USBL), Canterbury Rams (New Zealand), and Al-Ansar (Saudi Arabia).

Acha passed away on October 28, 2002 at the age of 31. With a heart condition that had bothered him for years, Acha was working out at the San Antonio Spurs training facility and had a heart attack on the basketball court.

 

KeKe Hicks

Following his Coastal Career, Hicks played 4 seasons in Hamburg Germany. He then took a contract to play in Russia and spent 3/4 of a season playing there before deciding that the cultural differences were more than he could tolerate in 2001.

Having kept a residence in Myrtle Beach, Hicks returned to finish getting his degree before packing up and moving back to Atlanta, Georgia.

While in Georgia, Hicks developed a career training and coaching players.  He continued playing in adult leagues and coaching recreation league kids in his spare time.

Two seasons ago, Hicks’s friend Chad Dollar, who was working as an assistant at Georgia Tech, offered him a graduate assistant position with the basketball team. Now in his second year, Hicks works with the one and two guards and acts as a coach on the floor during practice. Hicks still holds the record at Georgia Tech for most three pointers made by an opponent, at 10, from the 1994 CCU vs. GT game.

With a fond heart and memory of Coastal Carolina, Hicks specifically remembers the night they won the Big South Tournament, “That was one the best moments of my life. I still remember the bus ride back from Charleston. All the guys were on the back of the bus having a good time. When we got back, they had a party for us at Shamrocks.”

As for the NCAA Tournament itself, “I still remember the feeling; we were practicing and feeling really good about playing and being healthy and on the top of our game. I remember thanking God for the opportunity.”

Hicks hopes to return to Coastal one day as a coach.

 

Joey Hart

Hart returned to Indian and began coaching high school basketball as a varsity coach for Shakamack High School in 1996. He coached there for six seasons, winning the conference twice. He then accepted a job at Vincennes University as an assistant. Two years later, Hart became the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Turkey Run High School in Marshall, Indiana. His six year stint produced a conference title. He currently coaches at Linton-Stockton High School in Linton, Indiana. This past seasons team produced the best record in school history and played for the state title in Hart’s fourth year there.

Hart has been married to Brooke Burnett Hart since 2003. They have four kids and their oldest boy Joey, 9,  plays basketball.

Hart thought the Chants had a chance to win that NCAA Tournament game, “Coach Bergman put a game plan together that gave us the opportunity to be in the game if things went right.”

 

Larry Johnican

Johnican was just a sophomore during the 1993 run to the NCAA tournament. After Coastal, he began working in the financial industry field on the Grand Strand. While working for Mercury Finance, he was transferred to Atlanta, where he currently lives. He also spent time in Jacksonville, and Houston. He currently works for American Credit Acceptance as a collections manager.

He is engaged to be married to Andrea Brim, and they plan a mid April wedding. Johnican has one son, Larry, Jr., who attended Coastal for a semester, before transferring to the University of South Carolina.

Like some of his teammates, Johnican played in a couple of adult leagues, and coached some recreation league teams. He has also spent time with Phi Beta Sigma mentoring youth in the local Atlanta area.

He annually makes the return trip to the Grand Strand for CCU’s homecoming day.

Remembering the matchup against Michigan, Johnican said “We thought we really had a chance. They were really talented, but we thought we had a chance to win.”

 

Tarence Willis

Despite all efforts, Tarence Willis was unreachable. He currently resides in Kansas City, Missouri and hasn’t had any contact with his former teammates since leaving Coastal Carolina.

 

Marcus Key

Key only played for Coastal Carolina one year, the 1992-1993 season. After playing his entire life, he felt like he was drowning in basketball and left the game altogether. He describes the time period as “sort of depressing. I couldn’t even watch basketball. I’d turn it on tv and see all these guys I used to play against. It’s just in the last 5 years that I’ve been able to watch again.”

Key moved back to the Washington, DC area and worked as a personal bodyguard for several years before returning to Voorhees College to complete his degree in 1998. While at Voorhees and with one year of eligibility left, he decided to join the basketball team.

He is now married to Tanya Neal and has 4 kids. He currently works at local chemical company in Maryland and lives in Colonial Beach, Va.

“My daughters all play basketball,” said Key. “My daughter plays in the Raleigh area and is someone to look out for.” Tamari Key is 12 years old and stands 6 foot 5 inches tall.

 

Mike Doyle

Doyle moved to Atlanta to finish his degree at Clayton State. While there he joined Turner Sports in their talent relations department. He continued his education at Georgia Tech, earning his MBA. In 2008, while still with Turner, he began working with NBA TV, a division of Turner Sports. He’s currently the Director of Editorial Content and oversees features, all of the content, and guests. In addition, he acts as a conduit between NBA TV and the teams, and brings stories together for the website and television channel.

Doyle has been married for 15 years to Tricia Abraham, they have 2 girls.

That Fab Five of Michigan that faced Coastal in the NCAA game consisted of Ray Jackson, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Jawan Howard, Jimmy King. “The irony in all of this,” said Doyle, “I work closely with Chris Webber. We have a good working relationship. When Jelen played with the Knicks he mentioned to me that he would like to do some TV work when he was done. I fought to get him a chance and he’s done great ever since.”

As for the big game, “We went in wanting to win. I remember that I was in the layup line, we had seen Michigan on TV, so we knew who they were,” said Doyle. “But I recall Chris Webber coming over and trying to use a little intimidation factor, he was known for that. The pace of the game was entirely different. From playing at Coastal in the Big South, to playing in a big arena, and the fans there, and the hoopla surrounding it was a big difference. Our strategy in that game was to pack it in the middle and let Ray Jackson beat us, if anyone was going to. It happened to be Ray’s day. He stepped up and made it his.”

“I had a great experience at Coastal. It helped me become the man I am today,” said Doyle.

 

Alfonso Grissett

Grissett was a graduate of Myrtle Beach High School before playing for Coastal Carolina. After Coastal, he attended graduate school at East Tennessee State University and received his Masters in Education. He then moved to Atlanta and taught P.E. at a charter school.

He currently resides in Stone Mountain, Georgia with his wife and has two kids. He is a car dealer and also sells life insurance. Still involved in basketball, he coaches at the recreation league level, helping his 10 year old son develop into a player.

Like the other players, Grissett remembers “the hype of playing the Fab Five from Michigan. Going into the tournament, we thought we had a chance to win.”

 

Spencer Saunders

Saunders was a freshman during the 1993 run. Off the court, he was the unofficial team barber. He would continue in this field after leaving Coastal, opening shops in a couple of different locations, including Myrtle Beach. In 2010, Saunders had the opportunity to pursue a long held desire to coach. He accepted an offer to become an assistant coach at Louisiana College, coaching the women’s team. That team went 25-4, advancing to and winning their opening round matchup in the NCAA tournament

He now works as a finance manager for Hixson Autoplex in Alexandria, Louisiana, selling cars.

“The most surreal thing for me, we played Winthrop in the championship game, when we won back in ’93. So it was crazy watching it happen again,” said Saunders.

 

Dennis Pierre

Pierre moved back to his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio after leaving Coastal. He worked at a halfway house for several years before moving out to Los Angeles. There he reconnected with his high school sweetheart Kenya Thacker. They married, and have 3 kids. He currently lives in Atlanta and owns and operates an insurance agency.

“It was a very exciting time for the program, and university,” said Pierre. “I’m still a proud Coastal alum, and follow the basketball and football team.”

 

Mickey Wilson

A graduate of Conway High School before attending Coastal, Wilson is arguably the most familiar former player to most Grand Stranders. After graduating from Coastal, Wilson taught PE at Carolina Forest Middle School, served as an assistant coach for a year on the basketball team, and coached football as the quarterbacks coach. In 2001, he moved to Myrtle Beach High School to serve as the offensive coordinator. His team won a state title, before he was promoted to head coach. In his five years as head coach of Myrtle Beach High School, he’s won two state championships. He currently teaches PE at Myrtle Beach High School.

“During pregame warm-ups, I was standing in the corner warming up and Chris Webber came out of the locker room and was standing beside me,” said Wilson when asked about his memories from the NCAA game. “He was one of the biggest people I had ever seen at the time. It was almost like he wasn’t even a real person, he was so big. The sheer size that he had was tremendous.”

 

Phillip McLean

McLean spent the years after Coastal working as a History Teacher at schools throughout North and South Carolina. Now living in Conway, he currently serves as a Preacher for World Harvest Blessings Association of Ministries. He and his wife Terry plant churches across the southeast and abroad. They have three children.

McLean redshirted the year that Coastal won the Big South but was able to go on the trip to face Michigan. “It was an amazing trip,” McLean remembers. “The atmosphere was phenomenal. I wish I had been cleared to play in that game, but I wasn’t.”

 

Head Coach Russ Bergman

In 1994, Bergman left Coastal Carolina to become the head coach of the CBA’s Oklahoma City Cavalry. Bergman took the Cavalry to the CBA playoffs three straight years, reaching the conference finals in 1995 and capturing the CBA championship in 1997.

The Oklahoma City franchise was sold after the championship season and Bergman took over as Head Coach and Director of Basketball Operations for the Idaho Stampede in 1998.  The Stampede made the playoffs in his first season and his players combined for a record 10 NBA call-ups.  After his first season in Idaho he was a member of the selection committee for the 1999 USA Men’s Basketball Pan America Games team.

In September of 2000 Bergman accepted a job with the Utah Jazz as an advance and talent scout.  He was in charge of scouting players in the southeastern part of the United States. After being away from the sidelines for four seasons, Coach Bergman was ready to get back on the bench and was hired by the Great Lakes Storm. He totally rebuilt this team and led it to its first winning season and the Championship of the American Conference that earned the team its first ever Play Off berth. For these accomplishments he was awarded CBA Coach of the Year. CBA players have been called up to the NBA under his direction 28 times.  He was inducted into the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1996.

After leaving the CBA, Bergman worked for several years as an assistant coach in Russia.

Wishing to return to the top spot, he took a head coaching job with Al Rayyan in Doha, Qatar, winning the 2010 regular season championship.

He is now back in Russia as the head coach for BC Spartak Primorye.  The team has made the playoffs and have 3 games left in the regular season.

Bergman has been married to his wife, Anne, for forty years and they have two daughters, Jessica and Erin. They make their home in Myrtle Beach and have two grandsons.

Bergman has a very detailed memory of the 1993 season. “There was a turning point in that season that brought the team together and it happened after a loss at the University of Missouri against a very good Norm Stewart team,” said Bergman when reached by phone in Russia. “Keke Hicks became eligible after Christmas break. Joey was our point guard. I finally convinced Joey to play the two guard position and Keke to play the one guard position. I thought it would compliment this team better because KeKe could bring the ball up faster and we could get into our play quicker, catching the defense off guard. After that loss, Joey accepted that fact and the team gelled and we were very successful.”

“Tony Dunkin had the patience to keep waiting for the rest of this team to catch up with him. He was only starter on that team from the 1991 team that went to the NCAA tournament. Once you’ve been to the NCAA’s, you gain that experience, so I had a better idea of how to prepare my team. We were fortunate that we didn’t have to go through a play-in game in 1993, like we did in 1991.”

“As we prepared for this game, we realized that they were called the Fab Five for a very good reason. Going into this game, we felt like Ray Jackson was the weakest link. We tried to let Mohamed Acha guard him and then Acha could help on others as well.”

“The night before our game, a big team was playing and got upset, and that opened up the eyes of Michigan and they came into the game making sure they weren’t going to get upset as well.”

“I’m very proud of this 1993 team. I always told my players, ‘Don’t be someone that wants to only have their belly full of food, be someone that can contribute to society, instead of take from society, with your degree. This is a team that did that,” said Bergman.
CCU-TEAM
Authors Note: I’m human. If you see an error, or have an update on how to contact Tarence Willis, please send an email to news@grandstrandsportsreport.com with the information. You can also contact me directly, using that email address. Thank you.

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