Gordon College inducted Jim Petty of the Class of 1995 into their Hall of Honor on January 26, 2008.
A mere check of the Fighting Scots records in their media guide makes it easy to see that Jim deserved such an honor. He holds a couple of all-time numbers that could be in the books for a long time – most points scored (1,902), highest career average (18.2).
Realizing that Jim might be at the Curry game (January 26th), I decided that I would try to interview him for this blog. I also hoped to do the same with his coach Steve Heintz. Things worked out with Jim but Coach Heintz was involved in a Lexington Christian Academy basketball game and was not available.
Jim attended Gordon from 1991-95 and I had seen him play a couple of times. I remembered him as tall, thin and a very good outside shooter. Even before catching up to Jim, I learned that thirteen years after graduating he could still play. I got that information from 2007 graduate Mike Herr who matched up against him at the Alumni Game held in the morning.
When informed about how he had impressed a much younger, former basketball player he said, “I don’t know how impressive I was. I still enjoy the game and it’s hard for me to let it go. I invested so much of my life into the game early on. I still play with some church guys but it’s not organized or consistent.” Jim still looked to be at his Gordon playing weight.
I was curious to know how someone from Philadelphia ended up at Gordon. “I was a 10th grader and Steve Heintz came to recruit another player who was the star of the team I was on. He saw me play and told me that some day he would like to talk to me about coming to Gordon. That started a relationship that has not ended.”
Jim said that he knew that because he had grown up in a big city he needed a big-city connection while at college. “Boston seemed like a great place to have a college experience.”
I asked him about his memories of the teams he played on from 1991-95. “As a freshman I just remember playing with some really great juniors and seniors that I just admired so much and they taught me a lot. Then as a sophomore, I really had to step up and carry the team from a scoring standpoint. That was a whole new experience for me. My junior and senior years I really developed incredibly close friendships with a few of the guys on the teams. We’ve really bonded, and we’re still friends to this day. So I have great memories both on the court and off the court especially those last few years.”
One of the most difficult parts about coming back to Gordon after being away for a while are the changes you’re confronted with. Many of the changes are for the greater good but it does take some getting used to. For any Gordon athlete who played prior to 1996 the Bennett Center is a site to behold. His reaction to the Bennett Center is probably typical. “I first saw it in 2001 and was just amazed. I wish I’d had those facilities when I played.”
Jim played his basketball on the Gordon campus at Rhodes Gymnasium. “We had a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in that building,” he recalled. “It’s a little tough to go past it now and see that it’s an art gallery.”
Jim has settled in Georgia and works for a development company that builds retirement communities across the country. He told me that he has been in the retirement community business ever since he graduated.
Was there any connection between his time at Gordon and his eventual career choice? “Definitely, yes. As a student at Gordon, I was part of a nursing home ministry team. We would visit local nursing homes. Some of the conditions I saw appalled me and it made an impression on me. I got to know many seniors during these visits and still remember some of the conversations I had. After graduation, a business opportunity presented itself in the retirement community field and I took it. We try to build nursing homes that are much better than the ones in the past.”
Jim admitted that he was familiar with the current Gordon team. “My seven-year-old son and I have seen some of the games on the internet. The team has a bright future.”
I did not talk to Jim after Gordon’s rout of Curry (93-63) but I suspect that the great Scot shooting he observed might have brought back a memory or two of his high-scoring afternoons and evenings at Rhodes.