The Associated Press
Gainesville resident Mike Nordholz, a former guard for Alabama who holds the school's single-game scoring record with 50 points against Southern Miss in 1967, was honored at the halftime of the SEC tournament game between Alabama and Kentucky on Thursday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. At right is SEC staff member Mark Womack.
Mike Nordholz said a good percentage of the people who know him probably don't have any clue he was a standout basketball player at the University of Alabama in the late 1960s.
Before this weekend's SEC tournament, he was right. But now that he's been honored as a member of the 2007 class of Chick-Fil-A SEC Basketball Legends, an award he received during this week's conference tournament at the Georgia Dome, word's probably spreading.
"It's not really something that comes up too much anymore," said Nordholz, who lives in Gainesville and works for a sports medicine equipment provider these days. "I might give my good friends a hard time about it every now and then, but that was a long time ago."
Nordholz said he was surprised to be mentioned with such players as Allan Houston of Tennessee and Kenny "Sky" Walker of Kentucky.
"I got a call about a month ago from Becky Hopf in media relations at Alabama telling me I'd been chosen," Nordholz said. "It was out of the blue, really. To be honest, I thought those days were kind of over with."
Nordholz's modesty would make it seem as if he were lucky to even be awarded a scholarship out of Osborne High School in Marietta. But during his three-year playing career -- freshmen weren't allowed to play in those days -- he managed to average 19.9 points per game, which ranks him second all-time in the program's history.
He also still holds the record for points in a game at Alabama. During his junior season in 1967, Nordholz put 50 points on the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. And that was without the 3-point shot.
"The school record's probably one of the highlights, but I couldn't really single out any one moment as my fondest," Nordholz said. "Just being able to play the game I loved at a place like Alabama was enough for me."
Alabama never made it to the postseason during Nordholz's career, but that's because no one other than the conference champion advanced. Kentucky won the league in 1966 and 1968, and Tennessee won a bid in 1967.
As for individuals, Nordholz said LSU's Pete Maravich was the best player he ever played against. When asked if he was the player his coach, Hayden Riley, determined would guard Maravich, Nordholz laughed.
"I tried to and so did everybody else on the team," Nordholz said. "We ran a triangle-and-two defense with the two guys double-teaming Pete and the three guys in the triangle waiting for him."
Maravich was a sophomore when Nordholz was a senior, meaning the Gainesville resident only had the "pleasure" of playing against Pistol Pete two times.
"I think he had something like 30 points against us in the first game, which was low. He had an off night." Nordholz chuckled. "Then, that next time we saw them, I think he got 58. He was amazing to watch."
From college, Nordholz had a brief stint with the Houston Mavericks of the old American Basketball Association before a tour of duty in Vietnam cut his playing days short.
Upon his return, Nordholz took the head coach's position at Rockdale County in Conyers for five seasons. From there, Nordholz became the coach at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. He stayed there for a year before taking over the program at Gainesville College from 1977 until 1982.
He's been here ever since, and has loved his time in Hall County. Both his sons, Kris and Kary, played basketball at Gainesville High School for coach Jerry Davis and Nordholz's wife, Beverly, still works in the office.
"We're big basketball fans, but even bigger Alabama fans," Beverly, who grew up in Tuscaloosa, said. "And we're all very proud of Mike. It's a very special honor."
Nordholz said he had a great time catching up with old friends in Atlanta this weekend, but realizes that nothing much has changed in his life now that he's a legend.
"Yeah, it's back to being a 'has-been' I guess," Nordholz said with a smile. "I'll get up tomorrow and go to work like always."
How's that for legendary modesty from a true SEC legend?
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Originally published Sunday, March 11, 2007