Donor funds allow UNT athletics to open basketball practice facility

By: 
Jaime Blanton

When UNT boosters gathered Saturday, April 13, to celebrate the official ribbon-cutting of the new Ernie Kuehne Basketball Practice Facility, the event marked a turning point for Mean Green men’s and women’s basketball.

“Cutting the ribbon on this place gets us one step closer to cutting down nets,” said UNT Athletic Director Rick Villareal.

Ask Mean Green men’s basketball player Brandan Walton what the new facility means to the UNT’s basketball program, and the answer is simple. “The word that comes to mind is freedom,” Walton said. “Now, we don’t have to wait in line behind cheerleading camps or robotics camps or graduations to do what we need to do to improve our game.”

Walton, a senior guard from Compton, Calif., along with members of both the men’s and women’s teams clamored to offer hugs and handshakes to the volunteer members of UNT Athletics’ Basketball Enhancement Fundraising Committee.

The committee raised more than $3 million in gifts in 30 days for the basketball training facility, a state-of-the-art scoreboard in the UNT Coliseum and scholarships.

“Thank you just doesn’t seem like it says enough,” said Hannah Christian, a junior guard from Aledo, Texas. “This facility means that we have a place to call our own. It means people care about the progress we are trying to make in basketball.”

The practice facility bears the name of fundraising committee chairman Ernie Kuehne Jr. (’66), who presented the athletic department with a cornerstone $1 million gift for the project, which he funded by selling one of his top thoroughbred racehorses.

“It’s hard not to get emotional when I talk about what North Texas did for me personally,” Kuehne said. “As a child of segregation, what North Texas did for me is open my eyes to the diversity of the world. Those experiences changed my perspective and prepared me for success in a way I would not have experienced otherwise.”

Kuehne said he was proud to lead the efforts to raise funds for the basketball facility because “when we invest in our athletic facilities, we invest in our student-athletes, and they deserve our support.”

The 20,000-square-foot facility located in the Mean Green Village Athletic Complex is equipped with 24-hour, year-round access—a feature junior guard Alzee Williams called “essential.”

“This is our house,” he said. “This is where the work will get done. This is where we can make it happen, and we have the donors to thank for that.”

The Basketball Enhancement Fundraising Committee includes:

  • David Anderson ('99)
  • George Derr ('61)
  • Ben Joyner ('74, '76 M.B.A.)
  • Bob Kimmel ('61)
  • David Riley ('87)
  • C. Dan Smith ('62)
  • Robert Trachta ('68)

Read more about how giving to UNT transforms lives at http://giving.unt.edu. To learn more about UNT Athletics, visit http://meangreensports.com.

Pictured above from left to right: UNT Athletic Director Rick Villareal, Ben Joyner ('74, '76 M.B.A.), C. Dan Smith ('62), Ernie Kuehne Jr. ('66), UNT President V. Lane Rawlins, Bob Kimmel ('61), UNT System Chancellor Lee Jackson, George Derr ('61), Robert Trachta ('68) cut the ribbon on UNT's Ernie Kuehne Basketball Practice Facility.