Brothers scores induction


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Ernie Brothers, a former guard for the men’s basketball team, goes for a layup during a game in the 1970s. Brothers wil be inducted into the USI Athletic Hall of Fame Friday.

Ernie Brothers played basketball all his life, but it wasn’t until high school that he became competitive.

“Once I started playing as a freshman (in high school), I really enjoyed it,” Brothers said. “I was not very good, so I had to work really hard during the summer to turn into a decent player.”

Brothers played basketball for Lincoln High School in Vincennes under Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer Orlando Wyman.

“(Wyman) was one of those who was a worker,” the former Indiana State University-Evansville guard said. “If you were willing to give the time and effort, he was going to give back to you and develop you the best he could.”

The help Wyman gave Brothers throughout high school led him to multiple opportunities to play college basketball, and now he is entering the USI Athletic Hall of Fame.

Brothers wasn’t sure he wanted to accept any of the offers or if he wanted to go to college at all.

Brothers went to Vincennes University but did not play basketball his freshman year.

The coach at ISUE at the time, Jerry Altstadt, was connected with Brothers through another coach, and the next year Brothers was starting for the university.

“I didn’t really want to go far from home,” Brothers said. “When Evansville came up, it was a perfect opportunity.”

He said one thing that kept him from moving too far away from home was his girlfriend Debbie, who was his “biggest fan.”

Now, he and Debbie have been married 40 years.

The two wed his senior year of college after she also transferred to ISUE from Vincennes.

Brothers’ former teammate Gary Burdsall said the team at ISUE was close and often gathered at Brothers’ home and occasionally spent the night.

“His poor wife had to deal with all of us,” Burdsall said.

Brothers and Burdsall met on a basketball court in Vincennes in the early 1970s.

Burdsall went on to play basketball after high school, too, and eventually ended up at a junior college in Tennessee.

Brothers contacted him and talked to him about transferring up to play at ISUE.

“He always had my back,” Burdsall said. “(Brothers) looked out for his teammates.”

Burdsall will introduce his former teammate at the USI Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony Friday.

Burdsall said he was always a champion for Brothers’ induction into the hall of fame.

He said he occasionally told Brothers there needed to be a push for his induction.

He considers Brothers a lifelong friend, he said, and is honored to do the introduction.

Burdsall said he will never forget the time  he was fouled playing a close game against the University of Mississippi and his coach looked at him and said, “Burd, you gotta hit these freethrows.”

Burdsall said he told his coach, “I’m not going to shoot them.”

Burdsall and Brothers used to switch places when it came time to shoot free-throws in high school, and he decided it would work in a college game.

“Ernie stepped to the line and was getting ready to shoot and the manager on our team goes ‘You got the wrong shooter,’” Burdsall said.

Burdsall was a 70 percent free-throw shooter, whereas Brothers shot 90 percent.

He said the coach told the manager to sit down and be quiet.

“Some of those points (Brothers) scored were mine,” Burdsall said with a laugh.

Brothers was the first player at the university to score 1,000 career points.

He felt comfortable entering the team as a starter despite not playing for a year.

“There were guys I knew who made me feel really, really welcome,” he said. “It was a good experience.”

There were only two buildings on campus when Brothers started and the hall of fame was never a thought.

“It’s something that when you get 30, 40 years down the road, you can look back and be proud you had the opportunity to be involved,” he said.

Brothers said he played basketball until about 5 years ago. But now, at  61, he doesn’t play much anymore.

He said when injuries start happening, it’s time to quit, but basketball will always be a part of his life.

“It is part of your life. It gets in your blood,” Brothers said. “Basketball was good for me.”