NORMAN For the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, to play an exhibition game against a program of Oklahoma's stature was already considered a terrific opportunity. That the Braves will do so with the school's most cherished and respected alum watching from the OU sideline only makes it better.
Actually, it makes it right. Any big event involving Pembroke isn't quite complete without Mr. Sampson in attendance.
Ned Sampson, that is.
Granted, OU coach Kelvin Sampson might be the most famous graduate of UNC-Pembroke. But back in the North Carolina country town of 3,000, where the university sits, nobody is bigger than "Coach Ned.
"Back there, my grandpa is still a bigger legend than dad, said Kellen Sampson, a sophomore guard for the Sooners. "He's such a huge figure. Everyone refers to him with such respect.
"It might be the only place in the country where he dwarfs my dad. The only place in America where dad plays second fiddle.
Ned Sampson, who will sit behind the OU bench inside Lloyd Noble Center for the 7 p.m. exhibition game, begs to differ, of course.
"I don't know about that, he said. "Everybody's proud of Kelvin back home. They all respect what he's done.
Ned, 76, graduated from then-Pembroke State College in 1953 after starring in football, baseball and basketball. Kelvin graduated from Pembroke in 1978 as a basketball and baseball standout. Both are in the school's hall of fame.
Nevertheless, the son has full appreciation for the shadow his father casts in their hometown.
"My father's the all-time leading scorer in the history of the school, Kelvin said. "He was the first athlete ever inducted into the hall of fame. My dad was a star. I was not a star. But he was.
The name Sampson is woven into the fabric of the 6,000-student Division II school. John P. Sampson was the first basketball coach in school history (1939-42), and James T. Sampson (1945-51) was the third. Both were cousins of Ned's father.