He played with Oscar
Editor's note: This is a revised version of a previous Mark Green column.
“What do you want?” The voice sounded from the speaker beside the door. We explained that we wanted a look inside the basketball arena where the Nebraska Cornhuskers play.
I had been ready to give up. We had walked almost around the stadium, until we came to a fence and could go no farther. There was a door on the back side of the building. A sign said to press the button for help. I turned to leave, assuming no one would be there. However, Dr. David Moseley, my son-in-law, was bolder than I. He pressed the button and we were told to open the door and walk in.
At the security desk sat a slender, distinguished-looking gentleman with graying hair. He let us peek at the court, which was undergoing maintenance. We talked basketball with him for a few minutes, and then he casually threw out a bombshell: “I played with 'Big O.'” I explained to David that he meant Oscar Robertson. This aging gentleman had some sort of connection with one of the greatest players in history.
His name was Albert Maxey. After we left, I could hardly wait to get home so I could do some research and find out just who this man was. Who indeed! If you know anything at all about basketball, you know that Indiana is the state where they eat, drink and sleep the sport. The 1954 Milan team was the basis for the movie “Hoosiers.” Then Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis won the title. (In those days, there were no classes in Indiana basketball, and schools of all sizes competed for an overall championship.)
Oscar Robertson was the star of the 1955 and 1956 Attucks teams, which won back-to-back championships. In a state that is knee deep in basketball legends and where the sport reigns supreme, he is generally considered the best player the state has produced. The 1955 team was the first all-Black team to win the state title.
Maxey was a junior teammate of Robertson on the 1956 team. They finished the season 31-0 and won the championship game by 22 points. (YouTube has a video of that game, and you can hear the announcer call Maxey’s name several times.) They are considered one of the greatest high school teams in Indiana history. Both the team and Maxey as an individual are in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
After losing a legendary player like Robertson, it was expected that Attucks would be considerably down in 1957. However, with Maxey now the star, they again advanced to the finals as he averaged 20 points per game in the tournament and led the team in rebounding.
Maxey was offered a scholarship by Nebraska and twice earned All-Conference honors. He is also a member of the Nebraska Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Maxey family settled in the Lincoln area and became an important part of the community. Albert spent 34 years on the police force and advanced through the ranks to become the commanding officer. He was appointed to be the personal escort for Dr. Martin Luther King when he visited Lincoln in 1964 for a speaking engagement. Albert’s wife was appointed to the Nebraska legislature, becoming the first Black woman to serve there.
As long as I have a sound mind, I will remember our brief visit with Mr. Albert Maxey. I wish someone had taken a picture of my expression when he said, “I used to play with 'Big O.'”