10:06 PM EST, November 13, 2012
BLOOMINGTON - Three score and five years separated the person being celebrated and those doing the cheering at Assembly Hall.
Some Indiana fans in the gallery for Monday's basketball game against North Dakota State were alive when Billy Garrett took the floor for the first time in a Hoosiers uniform-but there were a number who weren't too.
That included one tall young man standing just to the left of the interlocking "I" and "U" at the center of Branch McCracken Court.
"To be able to bring my son back to where it really all started from a basketball standpoint for him," said Billy Garrett's son who shares the same name about his son, Billy Jr.
It was the first time he'd been to Assembly Hall in Bloomington and it was an opportunistic time for the Garrett to do so.
The current high school senior-along with many of the 17,000 people in the arena-were getting a quick education on Garrett's importance to the integration of college basketball.
At halftime of the Hoosiers' victory over North Dakota State, Garrett's family was invited onto the court for a ceremony. Honoring those from the past is part of the Legends Classic basketball tournament which Indiana is currently playing in.
Garrett's tribute included a video of his accomplishments at Indiana along with the presentation of a framed jersey and poster handed out to 5,000 fans.
"It really just put everything into perspective for me," said Billy Jr. of his grandfather-who came to Bloomington from Shelbyville as the first African-American player to suit up for the Hoosiers and the Big Ten conference.
Debuting in 1948, Garrett made an immediate impact with the Hoosiers in his three seasons on the varsity. He led the team in scoring all three seasons and earned a second-team All-American selection.
After his senior season in 1951 he became the third African-American player to be drafted by the NBA when he was picked by the Boston Celtics.
His son Bill knows these accomplishments through stories from his mother since Garrett died of a heart attack in 1974 at the age of 45-stories that told not only the significance of the acts but the hardships that were endured.
"I do respect the courage. I know that it had to be tough for him just listening to some of the stories that my mother tells me," said Garrett of his father. "I know that I would not have been able to do it and for him to be able to do that, persevere, and pave the way for other people.
"I'm just proud of him."
Garrett understands fully the impact that his father had in integrating college basketball since he is a longtime college assistant coach. He's currently at DePaul University in Chicago and watching Indiana play on Monday further reminded him of his father's impact.
"I'd like for people to remember him as a courageous man who paved the way to make the world just a little bit better place," said Garrett. "That's what all of us strive to do, leave things a little bit better than what we found them."
Discovering the story, however, was what Monday was all about for Billy Jr-who will play for his father at DePaul next year. He carried off his grandfather's jersey following the ceremony, one in which Garrett was referred to during the video as the Big Ten's version of Jackie Robinson.
"That's amazing," said Billy Jr. of the comment. "Really its just an honor to be here and to receive this on his behalf. Its hard to for it to sink in just to know that my grandfather did such a great thing."
Now many others know too.
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