Willie White shoots over Michael Jordan in McKenzie Arena in 1982.
Courtesy: GoMocs.com
Moctoberfest Day 4: Recruiting Class of 1980

Moctoberfest is a month-long celebration of Chattanooga Mocs men's basketball. It includes historical moments, social media interactions and introduction to UTC's freshmen among the myriad of video tributes and stories.

Day Four is devoted to a quartet of student-athletes who set the championship train in motion for the Mocs. The recruiting class of 1980 included four future UTC Hall of Famers that led UTC to three straight Southern Conference Championships and subsequent trips to the NCAA Tournament.

Junior college transfers Nick Morken and Russ Schoene were blended with freshmen Stanford Strickland and the incomparable Willie White. Three of those performers (Morken, Schoene, White) would become NBA Draft selections at the end of their playing careers.

They weren't the only members of this class - Chris McCray and Donel Cochran joined the six-player group - but the biggest impact on the program was felt by these Hall of Famers.

Morken and White became the starting backcourt almost from day one. They combined with seniors Eric Smith and James Jones and sophomore Stanley Lawrence in the starting lineup that first season, while Schoene was key as the sixth man.

That proved to be a special combination. The Mocs went 21-9 winning the SoCon Tournament in Roanoke, Va., and advancing to the first of 10 NCAA Tournament appearances in school history.

The 18th-ranked Maryland Terrapins crossed UTC's path in the Mideast Regional in Dayton, Ohio. The Mocs were not intimidated by the ACC power leading by as many as five in the opening half before settling for a two-point advantage on a last-second Schoene tip-in before the half.

The score was tied at 49-all when Morken hit a jumper from the left side with 14:46 to go in the game. The Terps took the lead for good just 28 seconds later as future NBA star Buck Williams sunk one from the short corner for a 51-49 lead. It was the start of a 10-2 run over the next three-plus minutes to take control of the game.

The Mocs scored on consecutive possessions with Schoene and Jones scoring to cut the lead to four. But it was not meant to be as Maryland pulled away for an 81-69 win behind Williams (13 pts/16 reb) and Albert King (25 pts).

Five Mocs scored in double digits including three of our now famed quartet. Morken had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists, while Schoene came off the bench to post 16 points and eight boards. White also had 10 for the Mocs.

The following season, Schoene joined Morken and White in the starting lineup and Strickland became the trusted sixth man. That team rolled to a 27-4 season with White (15.7 ppg), Schoene (13.6 ppg/7.0 rpg) and Morken leading the way (10.8 ppg).

UTC once again won SoCon regular season and tournament titles. It was off to Indianapolis for the 1982 Mideast Regional. Another ACC opponent was sent to dispatch the Mocs; at least that was the script.

N.C. State came along with the likes of Thurl Bailey, Sidney Lowe, Dereck Whittenburg and Lorenzo Charles. Schoene (15), Morken (15) and White (12) combined for 42 points in the 58-51 epic Mocs win. Chattanooga led by as many as 20 with eight-plus to play before the Wolfpack made a furious effort to make the score respectable.

Future NBA starter Trent Tucker and the Minnesota Golden Gophers stood in the way of the Mocs and the Sweet 16. UTC led by eight midway through the second half, but Minnesota pulled it out in the end for the 62-61 heartbreaking loss.

Morken and Schoene departed, but White and Strickland combined with a new supporting cast, including future NBA starter Gerald Wilkins, to provide Mocs fans with one of the special seasons in the program's annals. The 1983 squad went 26-4 and ended the year ranked No. 15 in the nation. It was the start of a great two-season run for Strickland who scored 822 of his 1,153 career points and grabbed 369 of his 528 boards during that span.

It opened the Roundhouse with narrow losses to Tennessee (55-49) and North Carolina (73-66) with the only other regular-season loss coming at the hands of burgeoning arch-rival Marshall. Another regular season and tournament title in the SoCon led to a Midwest Regional date with Maryland and a 52-51 nail biter that went the Terps way thanks to five-for-12 free throw shooting for the Mocs.

White and Strickland finished in style. A 24-win campaign in 1984 ended with an NIT berth, the school's first. Chattanooga hosted Georgia in round one and captured a 74-69 overtime win over the Bulldogs who reached the NCAA Final Four the previous year. The season ended at Tennessee, another close postseason loss, 68-66, in Stokely Athletic Center.

UTC went 48-13 (.787) with Morken and Schoene on the roster, 98-24 (.803) with White and Strickland. The Mocs were 26-6/53-11 during their respective tenures in conference play with three regular-season and tournament titles, three NCAA appearances and one NIT.

Schoene was selected in the second round of the 1982 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, the highest draft selection at the time for a Moc (45th). He played five NBA seasons sandwiched around a highly-successful stint in Italy where he was named league MVP in 1986.

Morken was a ninth round pick by the Golden State Warriors in 1982. White bested Schoene by three slots going at No. 42 to the Denver Nuggets in 1984. He played two seasons for the Nuggets.

White holds the school scoring record with 1,969 points. Strickland did the dirty work inside ending up as the all-time leader in free throws made with 401. No other UTC player won as many games as White, Strickland and McCray during their careers.

The Class of 1980 is the most successful recruiting class in school history based on its record and impact in laying the foundation of the program.

Chattanooga opens the season Monday, November 12, against Tennessee Temple in McKenzie Arena at 7 p.m. Season tickets for a school-record 18-game home slate are available. Call 266-MOCS (6627), go online here at GoMocs.com or stop by the Gate One McKenzie Arena Ticket Office.

GoMocs.com is the official website of the Chattanooga Mocs.  The Mocs can also be followed on their official Facebook page (ChattanoogaMocs), or on Twitter (@GoMocsMBB & @GoMocs).

Find out how to join the UTC Mocs Club and support more than 300 student-athletes by clicking here.

MOCTOBERFEST
1 - First NCAA DI Game
2 - Walter "Moose" McGary
3 - Stephen McDowell
4 - Recruiting Class of 1980
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