By MATTHEW WEITZEL
CHICAGO — Former University of Iowa standout and Chicago native Ronnie Lester will be one of four college basketball legends from Iowa, Dayton, Cincinnati, and Colorado to be honored on the court during Saturday’s Chicago Legends doubleheader at the United Center. Dayton will challenge Colorado at 5:30 p.m., followed by Iowa versus Cincinnati at 8:10 p.m. (CT).
Lester joined Dayton’s Roosevelt Chapman, Corie Blount of Cincinnati, and Colorado’s Donnie Boyce spoke about the honor at a Friday news conference at the Chicago Hyatt Regency Hotel. All four legends exemplified greatness for the game of basketball.
Tonight’s news conference was moderated by Big Ten Network analyst and Shon Morris.
“I grew up in Iowa watching Ronnie play for the Hawkeyes. He was one of my personal heroes growing up,” said Morris, who was raised in Altoona.
Lester, a star at Dunbar High School in Chicago, was all smiles as he took questions from the media.
“It’s always good to come back and visit Chicago,” said Lester. “Coming back brings back so many good memories.”
When asked what he thought was the biggest change in college basketball from when he played 40 years ago, Lester was quick to answer the shot clock and 3-point line.
“The 3-point shot has really changed the game tremendously and it has opened the game up so much,” Lester said. “You are never out of the game because of the 3-point line.”
Lester said he watches Iowa whenever they are on television and likes this year’s squad.
“I think the key to their team is their shooting ability,” said Lester. “Iowa has a number of guys a who can spread the floor and shoot, and I think that bodes well for them.”
Lester arrived in Iowa City in 1976 and left as a first-round NBA draft pick in 1980. He was a four-year starter at point guard, scoring 1,675 points in only 99 games, ranking seventh on Iowa’s all-time list. Lester played just 17 games as a senior because of a knee injury.
Lester was a three-time most valuable player at Iowa, and his No. 12 was retired late in his senior season. Iowa’s 1979-80 team was one of the most successful in program history, finishing 23-10 and marched all the way to the Final Four.
“Looking back, I’m most proud of how we played and represented the state of Iowa and the university,” said Lester. “Iowa has the best fans in the country.”
Lester, who played on an NBA World Championship team with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1985, was a vice-president in that organization and later scouted for the Phoenix Suns. He is now retired and living in Tampa, Florida.
Saturday will be Iowa’s sixth time away from Carver-Hawkeye Arena in seven games, dating back to Nov. 28. The game will be televised on BTN and broadcast over the Hawkeye Radio Network.