By Chris Le
When you’re old enough to witness FDR create the New Deal and pull America out of the Depression, playing basketball usually isn’t at the top of your priority list. When you’re that old, you’re more concerned with grandchildren, death or trying not to soil yourself.
No so with Ken Mink, 73, who will play for Roane State Junior College in Tennessee this coming season. After a successful night of shooting hoops in his driveway—with shot after shot swishing the net—Mink came to the realization that he still had a little bit of game in him. Sure, his numbers maybe ghastly (a 20-inch vertical, a 6.6-second 40 and of course, the bone density and diminished reflexes of a 73-year-old), but he has the jumper he showcased in his youth.
Before the advent of the hula hoop and audio cassettes (remember those?) just over 50 years ago, Mink wasn’t a half-bad player, even garnering some partial scholarships from Division I schools. He chose Lees Junior College in Kentucky instead because they offered him a full ride, and he played there until 1965, when he was kicked off the team for a prank—a false accusation according to Mink.
Fast-forward half a century and one day with a hot shooting hand in his driveway, Mink sent out letters to anyone who would listen. I’m not sure if he realistically expected anyone to give him the time of day, but as things turned out, Roane’s Coach Randy Nesbit did more than listen, he gave Mink a shot. And the rest is history.
Surprisingly, Mink looks pretty spry…for a 73-year-old. But there are no delusions of grandeur with Mink. He has no dreams of dropping 40 points in the NCAA (hell, even in the NIT) Tournament. No visions of dunking. No fantasies of draining a game-winning shot. He just wants to play—even if it’s only for a few minutes of garbage time.