Mark Grace played for one of the best Bishop Heelan High teams of all-time before heading to Briar Cliff where he helped lead BCU to its first National Tournament in Kansas City. He still lives in NW Iowa and I was fortunate enough to meet him for an interview. Here’s part of his remembrances of the 1970’s.
Morningside was “a good team to measure yourself against. I think they got us my freshman year. They were just so good. We were good, but we were a year or so away still. I think we won all the games my junior and senior years. I just, you know, I pumped for the first game at the auditorium. I know Morningside had a really good team my freshman year with Dave Schlesser, Doug Schultz from Le Mars, yeah. He was a good player. And Doug Marx! If you ask who I remember playing against the most, it was Marx.” When I mentioned Marx had said he liked Grace’s game and that they “battled,” Mark responded, “Oh, yeah, it was fun. They were just a good team.”
Mark’s senior season was the first time the Chargers won 20 games, finishing 25-4. The Chargers only four losses were to Kearney State (now UNK), which finished second in the NAIA Championships, Northwestern, and Loras, (both regular season losses were avenged in the District 15 playoffs), and a one-point loss in the second round in KC to Winston Salem. “We had a great underclass. Rolando was our sixth man off the bench, and he was the best player on the team. I know there were some games the other guys would ask, ‘That guy doesn’t start?’ We would just say, ‘No, he’s our secret weapon.’ Rolando could jump, really smooth, really smooth, and could almost like, just hang there, you know? He just always could get open and make good shots. I tell you what, the guy today that reminds me a little bit of Rolando is Kevin Durant.”
Mark had good memories of Ray Nacke, too. “I remember old Ray, though, and I can still picture him to this day. He’d be, whoever it was, say it was ‘John’ refereeing the game that night; Ray would say, ‘Blankity-blank, John, you’ll never ref another game for me again.’ He would say that every day! ‘John, you’re never going to ref.’ And then Ray would always, after the game or during the game, he would always say comments to Ron [Schultz], and Ron would write them down, and then at our next practice, he would go over them. You know, bless Ray, but sometimes it was funny. He’d say, ‘Mark, why did you not get that rebound?’ or he would say something crazy, you know, ‘Why’d you shoot that way?’ and I’m like ‘I don’t even know what you’re talking about, Coach.’ Ray always had funny stories. I mean, he didn’t mean them funny, they just came across funny. Yeah, he was fun.”