Jon Teitel's "Forgotten Legends" Series: Alabama State's Kevin Loder
Jon Teitel: At Ross Beatty (MI) HS you were a third team all-state split end, a standout baseball player, and a top-seeded tennis player. Which sport were you best at, and which 1 did you enjoy the most?
Kevin Loder: I like all sports, but have always enjoyed basketball the most. Basketball was my love, but ironically I had better D-I scholarship offers related to football.
JT: In 1977 you began your college career at Kentucky State. Why did you choose to go there?
KL: There was a young lady from my hometown of Cassopolis, Michigan who went to Kentucky State and became an All-American. Her mother ended up acting as a PR agent for both me and my best friend, as she convinced Coach James Oliver to come recruit us.
JT: After your freshman year you decided to transfer to Alabama State. Why did you decide to transfer, and why did they not have a team the previous season?
KL: Coach Oliver got a job at his alma mater of Alabama State, so me and a few other guys followed him there. There were some incidents that brought some sanctions and basically shut down the program. However, it was a great opportunity for us to rebuild the tradition and start a new legacy, and within two years we were ranked #1 in the nation.
JT: In 1979 your team went 23-3 but had a one-point loss to Birmingham Southern in the NAIA district playoffs. How close did you come to winning that game, and what was the feeling like in your locker room afterwards?
KL: It was a real exciting game. We were down double-digits with under a minute to go, and I scored seven of our team's next nine points to close it to one, but we could not pull out the win. It was a precursor of what was to come the following year, even though we lost a couple of seniors. It was an exciting time on campus. We probably had as many people listening to our games outside our gym as coming inside to watch because we did not have enough seating to go around.
JT: In 1980 your team went 32-2 and made it to the NAIA title game before a seven-point loss to Cameron and tournament MVP LeRoy Jackson (Loder scored a tournament-best 24.6 PPG in five games). Did you consider your run in the tourney to be a success (due to making it to the title game) or a failure (due to getting so close but not winning it all)?
KL: We brought some national/international recognition to the program and accomplished a lot of our goals, including a 100% graduation rate for those who stayed four years. We obviously wanted to be the champs, but what transpired that year for everyone from the players to the community made us feel like we were champions. We were disappointed after losing, but that season is a point of reference for our program that people still talk about to this day. It is kind of like the Kennedy assassination. It was a sad event, but everyone remembers where they were when it happened.
JT: In 1981 you went 19-9 and had a 10-point loss to Alabama-Huntsville in the NAIA district playoffs. How disappointing was it to go from the title game in 1980 to a first round loss the following year?
KL: It was disappointing for me because I had been approached by a couple of NBA teams the previous season to leave early as a "hardship" case, but I chose to stay in school and get my degree. Having a season that took me out of the national spotlight was not fun, but UAH played well in that game so they deserved to win.
JT: You were a two-time Division II All-American. What did it mean to you to win such outstanding individual honors?
KL: It was tremendous, as it was recognition of all the hard work that I had put in. I was the very first recipient of the John McLendon Award as the small-college basketball POY, which was an honor because he is considered to be one of the fathers of college basketball.
JT: In the summer of 1981 you were drafted 17th overall by Kansas City (three spots ahead of Larry Nance). Did you see that as a validation of your college career or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA?
KL: I was blessed by God, but I guess it was both a validation and a realization. There are hundreds of thousands of boys who play HS basketball each year, but only about 100 NBA jobs that open up each year. I am grateful for the opportunity and the people who helped me make that dream become a reality.
JT: You currently work for BTBB Consulting Group. What do you do in that job, and what do you hope to do in the future?
KL: It is my own company. We consult with small businesses/organizations to help them grow. I also do medical case management with the Gulf Coast Center and serve on a few boards in the community. I am also VP of the Houston chapter for the NBA Retired Players Association, which includes several Hall of Famers. My wife and I do a lot of community outreach for our local church, and I am the father of six and the grandfather of 17, so my schedule is a little full!
JT: When people look back on your career, how do you want to be remembered the most?
KL: I want to be remembered as a guy who achieved some success, was always fair with people, and carried himself with integrity and character. I hope people would want to model their kids after me, although God is still perfecting that story.
Loder is also on Jon's list of best pro players in SWAC history.
Alabama A&M: NO ALUMNI IN ABA/NBA
Alabama State: Kevin Loder (1982)
Alcorn State: Larry Smith (1981)
Arkansas-Pine Bluff: Charles Hentz (1971)
Grambling State: Willis Reed (1965)
Jackson State: Purvis Short (1979)
Mississippi Valley State: Alphonso Ford (1994)
Prairie View A&M: Zelmo Beaty (1963)
Southern: Bob Love (1967)
Texas Southern: Woody Sauldsberry (1958)