Hamline University today don’t look that much different than it did in Al Frost’s college days when he was the only Black basketball player (1963-67) at the St. Paul MIAC school in the mid-1960s. There were zero Blacks on this season’s men’s basketball team. In fact, there were more Blacks (two) officiating last Saturday’s Hamline-Gustavus Adolphus contest than on both teams combined (one for the visiting Gusties).
Frost at halftime became the 12th member of the Pipers’ Row of Honor as his uniform number was hung on the north end balcony railing of Hutton Arena. Over a half-century later, and a few years since he retired from Minneapolis Public Schools as a teacher and administrator, Frost’s name remains atop Hamline’s record book: 19.8 points a game and free throws made (455), and fourth in field goals made and total points.
Frost’s 685 points scored in his senior season, a 29 points-per-game average, still are MIAC single-season records. Hamline President Dr. Fayneese Miller stressed beforehand, “I am so proud that he has remained committed to Hamline University. It is so important that we honor him and recognize his accomplishments not only as an athlete but also as a scholar.
“This is someone who was here at Hamline at a time when there weren’t many people who look like him here. It’s important that our young people see what’s possible for them, even in the face of quite a bit of adversity.”
“Hamline was a good fit for me,” Frost said. “I don’t regret it. I met a lot of friends at Hamline and kept them over the years. It’s amazing the friends you keep 50 years plus.”
He was a multi-sport athlete and a member of Hamline’s 1966 MIAC championship football team. Asked why his records haven’t been surpassed by now, he responded, “I’m really surprised because there have been some good athletes that come through Hamline’s ranks. Was I lucky? Did I work harder? I realized when I was a sophomore in high school that I had a God-given talent. I took it to the best of my ability.”
“In my opinion,” said President Miller, “we should be honoring all of our African Americans who have achieved in whatever level and whatever arena they have. He [Frost] is a good soul, and it shows in everything he does and his desire for the next generation of those coming behind him having opportunities. It’s not about being an athlete or being a scholar.”
“This is probably one of the top accomplishments,” Frost reflected. “It will soak in probably in a few weeks after we get through the ceremony.”
The WNBA free agency period began last week, and once again it gets overshadowed, ignored or both by the sporting media.
Now-former Lynx reserve guard Renee Montgomery signed with Atlanta, and forward Rebekkah Brunson re-upped with Minnesota.
“I found out about both of those probably about a week or so,” veteran guard Lindsay Whalen told me before a Super Bowl-related event last week. “I knew Brunson would come back — we both are going to play our 15th [WNBA] season together. Renee had reached out and said what she was doing. We are going to miss her a lot — it will be different without her.”
Whalen also announced last week that she is retiring from USA Basketball to solely concentrate on her Lynx play. “I had a great time with USA Basketball, but I want to focus on our season and our team as much as I can.”
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.