The biggest name to be inducted in the latest Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame wasn’t able to attend Thursday’s ceremony.
David Carr, the former NFL quarterback and Fresno State great, couldn’t get out of his obligations as the NFL Network studio analyst with a Thursday night football game also scheduled.
Instead, another former Fresno State great gave the crowd plenty to cheer about as the group strolled down memory lane while re-watching highlights of ex-Bulldogs basketball star Melvin Ely, who was present for the inductions at the Fresno Convention Center.
“It’s awesome,” Ely said. “I thought all the awards were over with. Fresno did their job. They prepared me for the NBA. They prepared me for life. That’s really all that they ever needed to give me.
“But to get to come back for this award and how much it means to me and my family, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Ely, 39, drew plenty of attention just from his height alone as the tallest person in attendance at 6 feet, 10 inches.
Ely was Fresno State’s career leading scorer at the time that he left the program following four seasons with the Bulldogs (1999-2002).
He became the No. 12 overall draft pick and a first-round selection of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2002 and spent nine years in the NBA, even winning an NBA title as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.
But his most memorable days were while Ely was at Fresno State, where he amassed 1,951 career points (eventually surpassed by Marvelle Harris with 2,031 points in 2016), 924 rebounds (second-best in school history) and a school record 362 career blocks, which averaged to a whopping 2.9 blocks per game.
I couldn’t have picked a better year to be inducted. I’m kind of like the tail of the dog. That’s OK.
Roger George, a decathlete in the 1970s and 80s whose Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame induction class included David Carr and Melvin Ely
“It was a journey that I cherish and one that I give Fresno – from coaches to the people to the teachers – I give them credit,” Ely said. “Because you guys would never let me fail. It was easy on my end. All I had to do was work hard.”
And with Selland Arena, the old home of the Bulldogs men’s basketball team, next door to Thursday’s ceremony, Ely couldn’t help but get emotional about his induction.
His senior year was also the final year that the Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry Tarkanian coached at Fresno State.
And Ely said his time with Tarkanian is what influenced him to become a coach himself.
Ely serves as an assistant in the NBA’s development league, with the Canton Charge of the Gatorade League.
“Coach Tark left an impression on me,” Ely said. “I was a person he took a chance on. Lessons that he instilled to me and taught me every day is something I want to pass onto other people.
“If he can make a big change in my life and others, who am I to not pass his words along? He’s my mentor. I want to be like him.”
Ely also was disappointed to learn Carr was not able to attend the ceremony.
“When he was here, he was the athlete,” Ely said. “Everybody wanted to be like him. He was the standard for Fresno State athletics. A heck of a student-athlete. A heck of an athlete.
“To come in alongside him, someone who I hold great regard for and I’d seen his work first hand … it’s awesome.”
Others included in the 2017 induction class were: Roger George (track and field), John Harris (horse racing), Teri McKeever (swimming) and the 1977-80 Memorial girls basketball team.
The Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame is considered one of the top local Halls of Fame in the country for its organization, participation and turnout.
“It’s very thrilling,” said McKeever, a former swimming coach at Fresno State who went on to guide Cal to four NCAA championships and served as head coach of the U.S. Olympic Team at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. “My first time here. It’s a wonderful event.
“Coaching at Fresno State was a huge part of my career. It was amazing to be part of a college town.”
Added George, whose accomplishments stem from his time as an international decathlete in the 1970s and ’80s: “You know, I hoped all my life that this would happen. And when it did happen, it was a dream come true.
“I couldn’t have picked a better year to be inducted,” George said. “I’m kind of like the tail of the dog. That’s OK. I’m really happy to be involved in this group.”
Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame
2017 INDUCTION CLASS
- David Carr: Football
- Melvin Ely: Basketball
- Roger George: Track and field
- John Harris: Horse racing
- Teri McKeever: Swimming
- 1977-80 Memorial High girls basketball team