Tennessee announces plans to retire Allan Houston's number (#20)
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Tennessee's all-time leading scorer and most decorated NBA player will have his jersey retired and hung in the rafters of Thompson-Boling Arena on March 6.
But more important to Allan Houston than any shot he made, record he set, or game he won while wearing the orange and white No. 20, is that his family legacy will be recognized and remembered at the state's flagship university.
"My family has always been close, so I always felt like, not just to have my number go up, but the name go up, was more important to me,'' said Houston, a four-time All-SEC pick and two-time All-American with the Vols from 1990 to '93. "The first thing I thought about was my family's legacy will remain.''
UT announced at a news conference Monday that prior to the game against Kentucky, Houston will join former UT legends Bernard King (1975-77) and Ernie Grunfeld (1974-77) as the only men's basketball players to have their numbers retired and hung from the rafters.
Houston - whose 2,801 points top the UT charts and are second in SEC history only to the total scored by LSU's Pete Maravich - was in New York City on Monday tending to business with the NBA's New York Knicks as the team's assistant general manager.
Houston, 39, spent the final nine seasons of his NBA career with the Knicks after being selected with the 11th overall pick in the 1993 draft by the Detroit Pistons and playing the first three years of his career there.
In addition to his NBA exploits, which included six playoff trips and two NBA all-star appearances, Houston was a member of USA Basketball's 2000 Olympic gold-medal-winning team in Sydney, Australia.
Houston's aunt and uncle - UT director of disability services Annazette Houston and UT director of programs and diversity initiatives Charles Houston - were on hand at the Monday news conference to represent their nephew.
Allan Houston, participating via teleconference, said playing for the Vols in East Tennessee while his father, Wade Houston, served as coach (1990-94), brought the family back to its roots.
"It's where the name started, my lineage, in Alcoa, Tennessee, where my dad grew up, where my grandfather came from when was a young boy on a slave plantation,'' Allan Houston said. "My dad became the first African-American coach in the Southeastern Conference here.
"(This) means all the things they fought through, the character they had to sustain to get to that point,'' he said. "For me, to have that name hung up in Thompson-Boling means so much more than any records.
"It means carrying the lineage and the legacy. That's why this is going to be emotional and real special to me.''
Vols coach Bruce Pearl said it means a great deal to have an ambassador like Houston representing UT.
"We can honor a lot of great basketball players, but we may never be able to honor a man, and a man of God, like Allan Houston,'' Pearl said at Monday's news conference. "You can aspire to be the kind of player Allan was, but that pales in comparison to the kind of man he is, and father he is, and the kind of relationship with the Lord he has and how he wears that on his sleeve.''
Houston, who graduated from Tennessee in 1993 with a degree in African-American studies, established the Wade Houston Scholarships for minority undergraduate students at UT in 2003.
Houston and his father also co-created the "Father Knows Best" basketball retreat, a Christian faith weekend event that combines basketball with life skills for fathers/mentors and their sons.
A McDonald's All-American at Louisville's Ballard High School, Houston was inducted into the state of Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006 and was selected as UT's Chik-fil-A SEC Basketball Legend in 2007.
On Jan. 18, the New York Knicks announced Houston has been chosen the franchise's "Player of the Decade" for the period 2000-2009, and will be honored on Feb. 23 at Madison Square Garden.
"You do something for New York, they'll be sure to do something for you,'' said UT senior center Brian Williams, a native of the Bronx, N.Y. "When you look at all Allan Houston has done for this university, it's crazy. I don't know why it took so long to put his jersey up there.''
The UT athletic department announced criteria for number retirement in 2007, with men's basketball candidates needing a minimum of five years between their UT basketball careers and consideration for the honor.
Additionally, a candidate must have achieved two of the following four honors: First-team All-America honors, SEC Player of the Year award, member of an Olympic basketball team or a member of the NBA or ABA All-Star Team.
"For me, Tennessee had always been known as a football school,'' Houston said. "Then you think about basketball and those two names (Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld) stand out, and for me to be able to sustain the legacy of basketball with them is really a special feeling.''