Consistent - con•sist•ent /kenˈsistent/ (adjective): acting or done in the same way over time, especially so as to be accurate
It’s a worn-out and tired cliché, but it still rings true to this day: every great team has that one player who does all the “little things” for his team to be successful. That same player may not fill up every column in a stat sheet or garner the limelight, but instead he’s consistent and integral part of winning. For the 1986 National Championship Louisville Basketball team, Jeff Hall was “that guy”.
Inducted into the UofL Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998 (should’ve happened earlier IMO), former UofL shooting guard Jeff Hall personified a selfless style of play. A dead eye shooter from the perimeter and a well above average defender and ball handler, Hall provided great balance in the ’86 backcourt alongside Milt Wagner. After his hoops tenure at UofL ended, Hall somewhat quietly moved on with his life. For this reason, I always selfishly wanted to know what he had been up to for the past several years.
Thankfully, Jeff was a great sport and more than willing to work with me and because of that I learned some awesome things about a player I once idolized as a young kid growing up in central Kentucky and still respect at the highest level to this day.
Please join me for Issue 10 of the Return to the Flock series as I catch up with National Champion team member and starter Jeff Hall.
Photo by Durell Hall, Jr. Courier-Journal
So, when did you first start playing basketball competitively?
JH: I can remember playing when I was in 3rd grade. My elementary school put up a basketball goal on the playground. I fell in love with the game and the rest is history. I started competing against other players as a fifth grader.
Fans from the 80’s are likely familiar with where you’re from but for the new generation of Card fans, talk a little bit about where you grew up and played high school basketball…..
JH: I’m originally from a small town called Westwood, KY just about 2 miles outside of Ashland. I played basketball at Fairview High School, graduating in May of 1982 with 75 other seniors. Fairview is a relatively small school in Northeastern Kentucky. Playing basketball, baseball and track was how I stayed out of trouble.
Were you always a taller kid? At what point did you come to the realization that you had the ability to play basketball at a very high level?
JH: I was average size until the summer between my 8th and 9th grade school year. That summer I grew about 6 inches and that separated me from being an average player to being a good player. At that time, I realized I had a chance to play college basketball. So, I continued to work hard and realized my dream, playing for a Division I University and winning a National Championship. 1986 was a great year, NCAA National Champs and I married Teri Hatfield Hall. Awesome!
(Editor’s note: I must say, that’s one helluva year!)
Speaking of where you grew up, it had to be a pro-UK town and county didn’t it being so far into eastern KY? Did you actually grow up rooting for Kentucky? Any favorite players growing up?
JH: I did grow up in UK country but while I was at U of L my hometown and community cheered hard for me. My friends switched their allegiance from UK to U of L for a four-year period.
JH: As a young player I cheered for UK and loved watching Jack “Goose” Givens play. I also enjoyed watching Darrell Griffith and U of L back when they were in the old Metro Conference. Also, as an NBA fan I always liked watching Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, David Thompson and of course Michael Jordan.
(Editor’s note: I found it cool that Jeff’s family & particularly his friends would change their allegiance for a four-year period. Not sure many would do that in today’s rivalry considering the toxicity it produces)
How and when did UofL begin recruiting you? What other schools were after you the hardest?
JH: U of L started recruiting me between my Junior and Senior year of high school. I attended a summer basketball camp at the end of my Junior year and Coach Bob Dotson (an assistant under Coach Crum) discovered me through the camp director. From that point forward I was all Louisville Cardinal. Other schools recruiting me hard were West Virginia, Ohio State, Marshall, Western Kentucky and Morehead State. UK started looking at me after I committed to U of L. Had I not gone to U of L I would have committed to West Virginia.
Talk a little bit about your earliest experiences and impressions of Coach Crum? How about your impression of Louisville as a city when you came to visit?
JH: My earliest impressions of Coach Crum were patience, competitiveness and a great teacher of the game. I enjoyed playing for him because he was firm, fair and consistent with his coaching style. He would always say “You get what you earn in this world and be quick but don’t hurry”. To say the least, I enjoyed playing for Coach Crum. The city of Louisville was large in one sense but small enough to quickly learn your way around.
You played in some of the biggest games in Louisville Basketball history. First, in your own words tell me what the 1983 Dream Game was like?
JH: To be honest, I was so caught up into the game itself that I don’t remember much about my playing time until I watched the video. I certainly liked the outcome, but it was so hard to enjoy because of the hype and pressure of the game.
(Editor’s note: I so appreciate Jeff’s candor here regarding him feeling so much pressure that it was hard to enjoy)
How about the 1986 National Championship, what are the things you most remember from that historic game?
JH: I remember how brilliant Pervis Ellison played, Milt Wagner being so cool at the free throw line at the end of the game and the way Billy Thompson played throughout the whole tournament. I remember being so tired after the game, it was hard to enjoy the great win. Just knowing we are the second NCAA Basketball Champion (1986) at the University of Louisville and our team being remembered as a great team makes me very proud. Lastly, I remember our great fans who supported us through thick and thin all year long and I certainly enjoy wearing my Championship Ring.
In your opinion, was the ’86 squad the best TEAM you played on at UofL?
JH: Honestly, the 1982-83 team was the best I played on because our starting lineup was Milt Wagner, Lancaster Gordon, Rodney McCray, Scooter McCray and Charles Jones. Billy Thompson and I were the sixth and seventh men on that team. We had to play the University of Houston in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the altitude really affected our play. The Houston Cougars were an excellent and powerful college basketball team. We just had an unlucky draw in the 1983 NCAA Basketball tournament.
(Editor’s note: this only solidifies my stance that the ’82 –’83 UofL team was the best team in school history not to win a national championship)
Even as a younger fan, I can still remember Milt Wagner breaking his foot. I also remember how well you played that season in his absence. Do you think Milt’s injury inadvertently allowed you to elevate your game?
JH: Yes, my personal game improved a great deal, but our team’s overall play was greatly affected because we lost our All-American guard for the season. Because of his injury he was able to red shirt the remaining part of the season and it allowed him to return in 1986 to lead us to the National Championship.
Speaking of the ‘86 Title game, I’ve wanted to ask you this since I was a young UofL fan……is there any more to the story at the end of the game where you stole a pass and went in for a harmless layup with no time remaining and Danny Ferry close lined you? Clearly you turned and drilled Ferry with the ball as seen on TV (it was glorious). Was that the end of it or have the two of you spoken since?
JH: That was the end of it because we’ve never spoken to one another since that play.
(Editor’s note: Jeff gets the last laugh)
Obviously, Danny Ferry would go on to be a great college basketball player. If you had to rank the 3 or 4 toughest opponents you faced in your time at UofL who would they be?
JH: Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler, Johnny Dawkins and Kenny Walker.
(Editor’s note: That’s a ridiculously good list of players)
In just a few sentences or even words tell me what first comes to mind when I mention the following…….
Freedom Hall: The best college basketball arena ever
The 1983 Houston Cougars: Phi Slama Jama
Milt Wagner: Great under pressure
Wade Houston: Tremendous recruiter
Louisville Basketball fans: The best in college basketball
Billy Thompson: He put us on his back and carried us through the 1986 NCAA tournament.
University of KY Basketball: Great tradition.
Summarize Denny Crum the Hall of Fame Coach, and Denny Crum the person……
JH: Cool hand Luke as a Coach and a simple man away from the game.
What did you do after you graduated and your playing days at UofL ended?
JH: I became a high school teacher and basketball coach then later in life I became an Independent Insurance Agent in Kentucky.
I know you spent several years coaching high school basketball. Could you give the readers a quick overview of the places you’ve coached and some of the accolades you’ve garnered?
JH: In order I Coached: Allen Co.-Scottsville H.S., Ashland H.S., Fern Creek H.S., Rose Hill Christian School, Glasgow H.S. and Caverna H.S.
2002 KY Associated Press Coach of the Year / Rose Hill Christian School
1998 University of Louisville Athletic Hall of Fame
1992 16th Region Coach of the Year / Coach of the Eastern KY Prep All-Stars / Ohio-KY Athletic Conference Coach of the Year
1991 Ohio-KY Athletic Conference Coach of the Year
1990 KY Lions Eye Foundation Hall of Fame Inductee
1986 NBA Draftee to the Indiana Pacers
1986 Starting Guard for the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Team, University of Louisville
I also understand you have a son named Cameron who played basketball. Was he a lot like his father in the way he played? Feel free to talk as much as you’d like about your family.
JH: Cameron was a 6’1” 170 lb. guard who could jump out of the gym and could dunk a basketball about any way you want it. He was a highly skilled player, averaging 24 points per game as a junior and 25.5 points per game as a senior. He was a great high school guard who could play with or without the ball. He was very good at creating his own shot off the dribble and was a deadly free-throw shooter.
He ended his playing career at Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, Kentucky. I enjoyed coaching him his junior and senior seasons at Glasgow H.S.
In looking back at your time at UofL, are there any behind the scenes funny stories or idiosyncrasies that often come to mind when talking about your time as a Cardinal?
JH: Not really because I had to practice so hard to keep the competition off of my heels to retain my starting position as a Cardinal.
Any regrets during your time at UofL?
JH: None, I was able to play with some of the best basketball players in the world, played on two Final Four teams and won the NCAA National Championship. Not too bad of a career for a boy from Northeastern Kentucky.
(Editor’s note: not too shabby indeed, only he could have at least hit Danny Ferry in the forehead instead of his lower torso)
What are you doing these days professionally?
JH: I’m a retired Independent Insurance Agent.
How have you stayed busy during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine?
JH: Spending quality time with my wife of thirty-four years, Teri Hatfield Hall.
(Editor’s note: chivalry ain’t dead fellas)
It appears you still follow the Cards closely. What do you think about Chris Mack and the direction the program is heading?
JH: I like what I’m seeing. Coach Mack is a good recruiter, practice and game coach. After taking over a basketball program in shambles, he has put together two good seasons in the best basketball conference in the United States, the ACC. I truly believe in time he will bring home an ACC and NCAA tournament championship.
In closing, I always like to ask the following: How do you hope University of Louisville Basketball fans remember you as a player?
JH: I’d liked to be remembered as a player who played the game the right way, practiced and worked hard every day, was a great shooter and a good teammate. I want to say thank you to Coach Crum, Coach Dotson, Coach Houston, Coach Jones, the University of Louisville and the greatest college basketball fans in the world.
(Editor’s note: I’m pretty sure I speak for all UofL fans when I say “thank you” Jeff for four great years, all your hard work and for being one of the primary reasons the Cards cut down the nets in ’86)