Special Collection Treasures
Published on April 2, 2024 by Burns Kennedy
book cover Cover photo of 1998-1999 recap guide

On the night of Thursday, March 21, 2024, the Samford basketball team played their hearts out against Kansas, one of the premier programs in college basketball. With just 16 seconds to go and Samford down by just 1 point, junior guard Staton-McCray cleanly blocked a Kansas player’s dunk from behind. However, the block was called a foul and Samford’s hopes of making it to the next round of the NCAA Tournament were dashed.

But this was not Samford's first time to the "Big Dance."

Samford bulldog pulls on Bama Big Al's jersey Image. Cartoon by Scott Stantis from The Birmingham News, March 1999

The 1999 basketball team were the first to get an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Led by head coach Jimmy Tillette, the Bulldogs finished the regular season with a 24-6 record and won the Trans America Athletic Conference (TAAC) tournament.

Cover Photo. Basketball Coach Tillette at Press Conference
players walking Photo. 1999 NCAA Selection Night at Samford

Led by talented players, such as Will Daniel, Reed Rawlings, and Marc Salyers, the bulldogs were poised for a historic season.

The atmosphere was electric when more than 1,500 students packed Seibert Hall to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show. Chosen as a No. 14 seed, the Samford bulldogs were slated to play against St. John’s University, an up-tempo, top 10 team. Coach Tillette and his players were ready for the challenge.

fans in bleechers Photo. Basketball fans cheering
Saylers jumping for ball Photo. On court, Marc Salyers and Ron Artest
sideline Photo. Jimmy Tillette coaching.

On March 11, 1999, in Orlando, Florida, in the first few minutes of the game, St. John’s quickly took a lead against Samford. St. John’s Ron Artest, who would later go on to become a star in the NBA, shot for 17 points. Samford was unable to shake the nerves that come with playing on such a big stage. St. John’s smothering defense dominated Samford’s Princeton-style offense, shooting only 12-of-48 field goal attempts, including only 7-of-33 three pointers. St. John’s would walk away with a win, with a final score of 69-43.

But what an incredible moment this was for the Samford players, students and community. Samford’s long and storied basketball program is replete with moments of overcoming adversity and proving naysayers wrong. The 2023-2024 basketball team is a testament to this.

portrait Photo. 1999 TAAC Champions & NCAA Tournament bound  banner.


  • 1998-1999 Samford University NCAA Tournament flashback guide
  • St. John's (NY) vs. Samford Box Score (Men), March 11, 1999