Wally Szczerbiak acknowledges the crowd at a pep rally for the Miami Redhawks before they boarded the bus for the NCAA ‘Sweet 16’ game against Kentucky in St. Louis on Friday. The rally was held in Millet Hall. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Miami legend Wally Szczerbiak returning to Oxford

When a player’s uniform number is on a jersey hanging from the gym rafters and he’s featured on every pre-game highlight video package, a coach usually wants him around the program as much as possible.

Jack Owens plans to give Wally Szczerbiak as much access to his Miami RedHawks as he wants when he comes to Oxford as part of the CBS Sports Network broadcast team for Miami’s game against Toledo on Friday, Feb. 9.

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“As much as he would like to be,” Owens, who played on the same AAU team with Szczerbiak teammate Damon Frierson, said Monday. “It’s great to have alumni come home and be around our guys. Our guys can put a face to the name. Everybody talks about Wally all the time.”

Szczerbiak, whose uniform No. 32 was retired in 2001 and who was inducted into Miami’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009, led Miami to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1999 for the only time in program history. He was named a first-team All-American by Basketball News, Sports Illustrated, Basketball America and John Wooden and a second-team All-American by the Associated Press, NABC and USBWA. He is one of just three All-Americans in program history and was a finalist for the Naismith, Robertson and Wooden player of the year awards.

A first-team all-Mid-American Conference pick in 1998 and 1999, Szczerbiak was a unanimous selection as the 1999 MAC Player of the Year. He is one of just two Miami players to be named to the MAC all-tournament team three times (1997, 1998, 1999) and is Miami’s career record holder for 3-point field-goal percentage and its single-season record holder for points, free throws and 3-point field-goal percentage.

With 1,847 points, Szczerbiak is Miami’s second all-time leading scorer. He is ranked among Miami career leaders on 11 of 19 top-10 lists. In 1999, he helped the RedHawks tie a school record for wins with 24 and averaged 24.2 points per game, which ranked third nationally. He played in the 1997 and 1999 NCAA Tournaments and the 1996 NIT and helped Miami to regular-season MAC titles in 1997 and 1999 and a tournament crown in 1997.

He was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves as the sixth overall pick in 1999 and also played for Boston, Seattle and Cleveland during a 12-year career.

“He was an unbelievable player – one of the best in school history,” Owens said. “To be able to have him come back is amazing. I hope he’s the first of many.”

Miami’s Wally Szczerbiak grabs a rebound against Dayton during a game at UD Arena on Nov. 24, 1998. STAFF FILE PHOTO
Photo: Contributing Writer

“I am looking forward to returning to Oxford to call the game on Feb. 9 on CBS Sports Network,” Szczerbiak said in a statement released by Miami. “Miami has always held a special place in my heart and it will be fun to be back on campus. I am very excited about the job Jack Owens and his staff are doing. It’s been great to reconnect through my old roommate and Sweet 16 teammate Damon Frierson with Miami basketball. Under their leadership, the sky is the limit for the program.”

As part of Szczerbiak’s return, Miami Athletics will be holding “Wally Night,” honoring all of his accomplishments. In addition, it is part of the Love.Honor.Care weekend spearheaded by Miami women’s basketball team that will raise money to aid local women fighting cancer.

“It is always great to have our alumni return to Oxford, but to have Wally come back as part of his job with CBS Sports Network is truly special,” Miami Athletic Director David Sayler said in a statement. “I expect our RedHawk fans to strongly show their appreciation for Wally upon his return, as well as for our current group of student-athletes and coaches as they continue to move Miami Basketball forward.”

In addition to his work with CBS Sports Network, Szczerbiak currently serves as a studio analyst for New York Knicks games on the MSG Network.

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