cn|2 EXCLUSIVE | Meet a few players from U of L's 1986 Championship Basketball team

02/19/2016 05:57 PM

On March 31, 1986, the University of Louisville Men’s Basketball program took home its second NCAA National Championship with a 72-69 victory over Duke University.

Thirty years later, the current Louisville basketball team tips off against the Blue Devils in the KFC Yum! Center Saturday at noon. It is the perfect setting to honor the ’86 Champs, a team comprised largely of Louisville natives, and players who would later come to adopt Louisville as their home town.

cn|2 Sports was given an exclusive chance to speak with three of those Louisville residents who also happen to be members of the 1986 Championship team. Herbert Crook, Robbie Valentine, and Milt Wagner share their memories from a championship season, their excitement for a reunion with their teammates, and their thoughts on the current Louisville team.

The first question we asked was about the characteristics that made the 1986 team so special.

We started the second portion of the interview by asking the guys how much has changed since they laced up 30 years ago.

Crook was a junior small forward at the time of the championship. He is a Louisville native, and graduate from Eastern High School who averaged 11.8 points and 6.5 assists in the ’85-86 season. Herbert was drafted in the 1988 NBA draft, played primarily in the Continental Basketball Association and now is employed by Coca-Cola.

Milt Wagner, known affectionately as “Ice” by his teammates, was in his fifth-year with U of L after red-shirting the ’84-‘85 season. Wagner went to three Final Fours in Red and Black, won one NCAA Championship, and also has a high school state title and NBA Championship under his belt. He finished his Louisville career with 1,863 career points, and went on to a successful coaching career before returning to Louisville to pursue community outreach initiatives.

Robbie Valentine was roommates with Wagner the year of the championship, but of all the people on the team, he was potentially closest with head coach Denny Crum. Crum praised Valentine for enthusiasm and spirit and called him one of the best good-will ambassadors the school has. Valentine is now the Senior Director of Sales for the KFC Yum! Center.

In their Saturday game against Duke, the current Cards will wear 1986 throwback uniforms. U of L has won four of the last seven matchups with the Blue Devils. Most recently, Duke won 72-65 in Durham, N.C. earlier this season.


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