Justin Renck: Freedom Hall

I wish I knew how many games I attended at the “world famous” Freedom Hall. Two days before the final game against Syracuse 2 seasons ago, I think it may be where my “blog” career started. I had so many emotions about Freedom Hall, and I was sad that its time was coming to an end. So I went to facebook, and just started writing what I felt. Well, here is what I came up with, my debut blog I guess you could call it! Oh, and I also have a signed copy of this from Milt Wagner. Here it is… 

I do not remember my first game at Freedom Hall, but I will certainly remember my last. I will make the 8 hour drive home this weekend to see the Cards take on #1 Syracuse. The game will be secondary to me, as I will be there to say goodbye to my second home, Freedom Hall. The day the schedule game out, this was the first one I looked for, the last one. I remember telling Sean Moth, the PA announcer, that I was going to be there no matter what. He said “Wow, the ink on the schedule hasn’t even dried yet.” I have so many memories of going to games there. I will share some of them here. The first one is actually before I was even born.

My mom was pregnant with me and standing on her chair next to my Aunt Mary in the 1986 seaon finale against Memphis State. Milt Wagner goes to the free throw line with a chance to hit 2 free throws to win the game. My mom says “If he hits these 2 free throws, I’m naming my baby Milt!” Well everyone was a winner. Milt sank both free throws, and I was named Justin, with no sign of a Milt in my name haha. He eventually became an assistant at Memphis, and when they came to play UofL a few years ago in the C-USA tourney, my mom and I found him after the game by the team bus. My mom interrupted him while he was on his phone, and told him that story. He got a good laugh about it, especially when she said “You hit the free throws…buuuutttt I didn’t name him Milt.”

I have never been excited about a new arena for UofL. I am sure it will be great and state-of-the-art and all that good stuff, but I just have too much love for the Hall to be excited about them playing anywhere else. It just won’t be the same. I am sure I will make new memories there, but nothing like the ones at Freedom Hall, where I pretty much grew up.

Whether it’s the smell of caramel popcorn, or my mom reminding me that I used to have to jump up to touch the plaques on the wall on the concourse, there are so many things I will remember about Freedom Hall. Instead of too many stories, I will just post some quick hitters of things I remember and always will:

-“Goal by Wheat, a 3 point goal by DeJuan Wheat” and “Steps Called”-John Tong
-Always remembering the details of my favorite game I was at: Jan 1, 1995. UofL 88-UK 86. Samaki Walker had the first UofL triple double, as a freshman!
-Going to the back of the arena after games to get autographs. My favorite player of all time, Brian Kiser, gave me a butterfinger once while giving me his autograph, which always came with a bible verse.
-Being at 2 different feeling UofL-UK games: The Sparks game, and the Sosa game! I can still hear Sean Moth “Threeeeeeeeeeeeee Sossssssssaaaaaaaaaaa”
-The bald guy running back and forth spelling out C-A-R-D-S when the cheerleaders are on the court with the flags
-The guy in the corner balcony that can make the whole arena louder than anybody when he claps his hands, stomps his feet, and does the C-A-R-D-S cheer.
-The person doing the bird whistle that can be heard throughout the arena
-My cousin Shane taking me to games and sitting in the student section, especially the games against Charlotte, when the refs reviewed a play at the end of regulaton, and the Princeton game, when we got on TV for my sign and Reece Gaines hit a bank shot in the lane to win the game. Those games were back to back, followed by the Temple game where everyone was slipping because they had just played ice hockey there the night before.
-Getting to my seat and looking around and spotting everyone I know because I know where their seats are
-Denny Crum walking the sideline with his rolled up “program”
-My Uncle David having seats in the top row. So when he stands up, it is no longer section 307. It becomes 30Dave.
-My cousin Travis taking me to the game when UMass came in with Marcus Camby.
-Guys like Dwayne Morton, Greg Minor, Cliff Rozier, LaBradford Smith, Boo Brewer, Troy Jackson, Tick Rodgers, Cornelious Holden. I am certain I can still recite players or their numbers from media guides all the way back from the early 90’s. CERTAIN
-Telling my mom at a game when I was 8 years old “I am going to be playing out there in 10 years”. It kind of happened, keep reading…
-I practiced with the women’s basketball team while I went to UofL. Got shoes, shorts, outfits, whatever. Nothing will ever top getting to practice in Freedom Hall. I told people when I practiced there, there were 19,000 people there in my head. The first time I got to do that, I thought “Do I take a layup so I can for sure hit my first shot here?” Nope, I took a 3 pointer, and made it. I had to make that first shot at Freedom Hall.

I have many more memories than this, but those are the first that come to mind. Saturday, March 6 will be bittersweet for me. Very excited to get to be there, but not looking forward to leaving when it is over. If I shed a tear, it’s ok. I’d expect to be upset if we ever moved from the house I have lived in my whole life, and that is what this will be like. I will attend games at the new arena, but Freedom Hall will always be UofL’s homecourt to me. Thank you, Freedom Hall, for giving me so many great memories and something to be so passionate about. Go Cards!!!

 

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