CBC honors state championship basketball team, retires Hughes jersey
By: Warren Mayes
CBC coach Bob McCormack got to relive a bit of his past Friday when the school honored the members of the 1996-97 state championship team in a ceremony before the Cadets played Chaminade.
That was McCormack’s first year as the head coach at his alma mater. The special squad was led by legendary Larry Hughes and Justin Tatum. The Cadets went 28-4 in winning the state crown.
“It was a ride like none other,” McCormack said. “It takes good players to win a state championship. It’s hard. I was lucky enough to come into a good situation. They really played well for us. I was just happy to do it as the coach.”
McCormack graduated from CBC in 1981. Next to his yearbook photo, he said his goal was to come back to CBC to teach and coach basketball.
McCormack was in his fifth year at Ladue when the CBC job opened. He applied and got it.
“It’s always been my dream to come back here to coach,” McCormack said.
That was Hughes’ senior year.
“Ten minutes after I signed the contract, I was in Larry’s living room,” McCormack recalled. “I told him he was our best player and I needed to be our hardest worker. He was, too. Everybody followed him and the rest is history.
“It was great of Larry to really get on board like he did and work as hard as he did. That’s why I made the trip over to his house.”
Hughes and Tatum were seniors. The whole team was talented.
“It was one of those deals where I came into a pretty good situation,” McCormack said. “I was fortunate enough to have that that type of talent my first year.”
The four losses in that championship season came to De Smet twice, to Webster Groves and to Harvey Thornton, of Chicago.
“Coaches don’t like to talk about losses,” McCormack said.
CBC defeated Ladue in the district final. To go to Columbia, the Cadets beat a “really talented Riverview Gardens team that had two 6-9 guys and good shooting guard,” McCormack said.
Riverview scored 29 points in the first quarter. Tatum had three fouls in the first quarter and sat out the second quarter. Still, CBC trailed just 42-41 at halftime. Hughes took over in the second half and had 40 points in the victory.
At state, CBC beat Rock Bridge in the semifinals and then topped Truman 51-35 for the title.
The school retired Hughes’ No. 20 jersey during a halftime ceremony. Hughes, who played for eight teams during an NBA career that lasted 13 seasons, holds the school record for scoring 2,152 points.
Hughes then chose Saint Louis University over all the colleges that sought his skills. Hughes spent just one season playing for the late Charlie Spoonhour and the Billkens before departing for the NBA.
The Philadelphia 76ers made Hughes the eighth pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. In his long professional career, Hughes played a total of 727 games for eight different teams.
“Before the game, we honored the whole team,” McCormack said. “We gave them shirts that they had signed years ago. We repackaged them and gave them to them.”
At halftime, Hughes’ No. 20 was retired.
“He was very eloquent in his speech,” McCormack said. “It was a very touching moment. It was an electric atmosphere.”
Hughes still calls St. Louis home and lives here, McCormack said.
The jersey is the first ever retired at CBC for basketball.
“Nobody will wear No. 20 again,” McCormack said. “Nobody has worn it since Larry left. I made sure of that.”
The Metro Catholic Conference game, which CBC won 59-50 to improve the Cadets to 5-1 on the season, was played before a packed gymnasium.
“We had to turn people away,” McCormack said. “It was a big game. The win and the retirement of Larry’s jersey made for a really great high school atmosphere.”