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Don Haskins event honors late basketball legend Willie Cager Jr.

Jasmin Campoya
UTEP hosted a public memorial for Willie Cager at the Don Haskin Center on April 14.

On March 19, UTEP’s basketball legend William (Willie) Cager Jr. died at the age of 81. March 19 was also the 57th anniversary of the 1966 NCAA men’s college basketball championship. Nicknamed “Scoops” for his swiftness in handling the ball on the court, Cager was born in The Bronx, New York, Aug. 24, 1942. Cager played basketball at the college level at what was then named Texas Western College (TWC). 

 Cager played in 77 games for TWC, before it’s name change to UTEP, from 1964 to 1968, where he averaged 5.3 rebounds and 8.5 points. Where in an infamous game between Texas-Western and Kentucky, where TWC became the first team with an all-Black starting line-up to win the NCAA Championship. Damaine Radcliff portrayed Cager in the 2006 film “Glory Road” based on that same championship.  

On Friday April 14, UTEP hosted a celebratory event at the Don Haskins Center, open and free to the El Paso community. The event honored Cager not only as the amazing basketball player that he was, but also as the amazing person, father, son, teammate, and friend that he was to so many people in his life. The event included his family, previous teammates, friends and admirers alike. Many shared heartfelt stories and lessons Cager had displayed in his storied life. Among the attendees was Kareem Cager, one of Cager’s sons.  

“Our father, he was our superhero, you know he had been through a lot of adversity since he was born,” Kareem said. “And the things that we witnessed and watched him overcome through the years were a blessing to our family and just what he did toward the community.”  

Kareem spoke on how important it was for his father to be positive and supportive to others, on and off the court. Cager always carried a smile wherever he went, even toward the end of his life and where he was physically, it was important for him to show the value of strength to his community. Kareem spoke about the way his father approached a room, being able to engage so gracefully with others.  

“Him having five sisters, that was his attitude and his mannerisms,” Kareem said. “It wasn’t about bringing anyone down, and I think because of that smile he brought to everybody, people gravitated towards him and wanted to be around him, his presence alone meant the world to everybody”.  

Tyler. C. Ragin is a 2020 UTEP Alumni who studied corporate communication with a minor in Creative Writing and was a UTEP track runner. She speaks of Cager’s influence on student athletes like herself. Ragin speaks in the film “Glory Road” and the realization to many who come to El Paso that these events happened, and it is important to think more broadly about how that person’s life was affected. 

 “Willie Cager to me was a trend-setter who literally paved the way for many people like me black student athletes, to come to UTEP and two, play in college sports at all,” Ragin said. “It’s alarming to me to think how his life must have evolved over the years, but he was always so supportive of UTEP athletes, every single game, meet, match that he could go to, you’d see Willie rolling in.”  

Ragin speaks on how even as a track runner, Cager recognized her in a Wal-Mart parking lot saying, “Hey I know you, you‘re that little fast track girl!” Showing up to UTEP sports events was extremely important to Cager as not only a former player, but fellow miner.  

“The phrase ‘once a miner; always a miner’ holds true for Mr. Willie Cager,” Ragin said. “I really hope the city of El Paso can learn to be just as supportive in the same way as he was.”  

This event hosted by UTEP showed how far kindness and support can go to a community, just like how Cager was to his community.  

H. Catching Marginot is a contributor and may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
H. Catching Marginot
H. Catching Marginot, Contributor/Writer
Henry Catching Marginot is a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso majoring in multimedia journalism and minoring in English: rhetorical studies. He is a contributor at The Prospector and freelances. He plans to pursue writing in the future.
Jasmin Campoya
Jasmin Campoya, Photographer
Jasmin Campoya is a bilingual student who is a senior currently majoring in digital media production at UTEP. She is a staff photographer for The Prospector, a photo editor for Minero Magazine, and is currently a social media and marketing intern for El Paso Inc. All while being a full time student, she also takes photos for her own small business, JasminCPhoto. Jasmin plans on continuing photography and hopes to work full time at an El Paso publication.
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Don Haskins event honors late basketball legend Willie Cager Jr.