Cleveland State College basketball
Clinton Ransey, one of the best players in Cleveland State University men’s basketball history, is back on the CSU campus to make good on a promise he made to himself nearly 30 years ago.
Ransey, a mainstay on the program’s first NCAA tournament team in 1986, recently re-enrolled at CSU. He is a full-time student during the fall semester.
The 51-year-old Toledo native is picking up where he left off in 1987, when he departed CSU after four standout seasons to pursue a career in professional basketball. At the time, he was 32 credit hours shy of fulfilling the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in history.
“It was always in my head to go back and get that degree, ” Ransey said recently during an interview at Wolstein Center, home of the CSU men’s and women’s basketball teams..
With his backpack and college casual wardrobe, Ransey blends in with the thousands of students crisscrossing the downtown campus every day. That he has rejoined the ranks of CSU undergraduates is testament to character traits Ransey has shown since he was a youngster.
“I’m persistent and competitive, always have been, ” Ransey said. “When someone tries to slow me down or get in my way, the competitiveness takes over. It just makes me go harder to prove how wrong you are. You’re not going to stop me.”
Ransey’s reputation as a high-scoring power forward was cemented at Toledo Macomber High School. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, he was thought to be not big enough to thrive at the Division I level in college. Among the schools passing on him was Ohio State University, where his older bother, Kelvin, had been a four-year starter at guard from 1976 to 1979.
The one serious Division I offer extended to Ransey came from Kevin Mackey, the former Boston College assistant who had been hired by CSU and was assembling his first recruiting class.
“Mack always believed in me, ” Ransey said.
Along with fellow recruits Eric Mudd, Shawn Hood, Ed Bryant and Elgin Womack, Ransey helped Mackey get the faltering CSU program on its feet and rolling toward national prominence.
With the brash, charismatic Mackey at the helm, the Vikings improved to 14-16 in his first season after winning only eight games the previous season. Ransey started 29 of 30 games as a freshman, averaging 13.4 points. He was the leading vote-getter in balloting for the Association of Mid-Continent Universities All-Newcomer team.
Ransey upped that average to a team-high 18.4 points as a sophomore as CSU finished 21-8 and narrowly missed getting a bid to the postseason National Invitation Tournament.
The 1985-86 “Run and Stun” team, featuring Ransey, Mudd, Clinton Smith, Ken “Mouse” McFadden, Bryant, Hood and a cast of talented complementary players, finished with a program record-setting 29-4 record. The Vikings won the AMCU regular season and tournament titles en route to receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
After stunning heavily favored Indiana and Hall of Fame-bound coach Bobby Knight in the first round, the Vikings beat St. Joseph in the second round before a narrow loss to Navy and superstar center David Robinson in the East Region semifinals.
Ransey averaged 14.5 points that season. He scored 52 points in the NCAA tournament games, including a game-high 27 points against Indiana.
As a senior, Ransey averaged 16.1 points and 5.8 rebounds as the Vikings finished 25-8. They did not receive a bid to the NCAA tournament and settled for the program’s first bid to the postseason NIT. They beat Tennessee-Chattanooga in the first round before losing to Illinois State in the second round.
When his playing days were done at CSU, Ransey’s 1, 946 career points were second only to Franklin Edwards and his 2, 235 points. McFadden would move into first place two years later with 2, 256 points. Norris Cole, who played for current CSU coach Gary Waters from 2007 to 2011, would edge past Ransey with 1, 978 points.
“My four years playing at Cleveland State were unforgettable, ” Ransey said. “We believed in ourselves when no one else did.”
Ransey decided to leave CSU after his senior season to try his hand at professional basketball, He spent four seasons in the World Basketball League, a minor-league circuit for players 6-foot-4 and under. When the league went out of business, Ransey was on to the next chapter.
In the years following the end of his playing career, Ransey got married, had a family (three daughters, one son), got divorced, and earned a living. He lived and worked in Toledo, Youngstown, Michigan, Florida and North Carolina.
When making periodic visits to CSU for alumni games and other events, Ransey said, he always spoke to the powers-that-be about his plans to one day return to school and earn that degree.
A couple of years back, he walked up to CSU Director of Athletics John Parry and President Dr. Ronald A. Berkman at a reception and stated his case.
“I introduced myself, told them my story and said there must be something we can do to make this happen. Like I said, I’m persistent, ” Ransey said, smiling.
At long last
Ransey made a positive impression on Parry, both for his persistence and stated determination to resume his quest for a college degree.
“I don’t have the history with Clinton some other people in the department have, but I was impressed that this former player waned to finish the work he started 30 years ago, ” Parry said. “Plus, he’s a really nice guy. It’s a great story.”
Parry said he navigated his way through CSU’s athletic budget and NCAA rules to find the money needed to underwrite Ransey’s return to CSU for the two semesters and summer term he’ll need to accumulate the 32 credit hours.
“He’ll get support like every other basketball player and scholarship athlete at CSU. Now, he has to do the work, ” Parry said.
One of the CSU athletic department staffers with whom Ransey has a history is Mark Gefert, coordinator of the athletic advisory program. Gefert took the job in 1984, when Ransey was a sophomore.
“I’m so proud of Clinton, but I’m not surprised that he’s following through on what he said he wanted to do all along, ” Gefert said.
“He’s put on a few pounds since his playing days, but he’s still got that fantastic smile, ” Gefert added with a chuckle.
Ransey also has forged a relationship with Waters. They first met in 1983, when Waters was an assistant coach at Division II Ferris Sate in Michigan. He was recruiting Ransey’s teammate at Macomber, Rob Johnson.
“I’m excited for Clinton, ” Waters said. “He first contacted me three, four years ago during the alumni game. We spoke at length and I told him, ‘You’ll need to make a substantial commitment to do this. When you have a family, you can’t just pick up and leave.’”
As it happened, the youngest of Ransey’s daughters, 20-year-old Gabrielle, was finishing high school and moving toward enlistment in the U.S. Air Force just as all the elements were coming together for his return to CSU.
“All of my children have been supportive of my desire to go back to college and get that degree, ” Ransey said. “When I told then this was finally going to happen, they were super excited.”
Ransey’s fiance, Aqua Hairston, and mother, Annie, also are in his corner.
The return to CSU after nearly 30 years away has produced some culture shock for Ransey.