Archdeacon: Hall-of-Fame bound Flyers legend Roosevelt Chapman trades in basketball for billiards

These days he may be more Minnesota Fats than he is Velvet.

Roosevelt Chapman now shoots pool, not hoops.

And while he lives in South Dakota, he does play tournaments in Minnesota.


Yet the guy — who is the Dayton Flyers all-time leading scorer and one of the most popular players ever to wear a UD basketball jersey, the guy who’s in the top 10 in 33 performance categories in the UD record book, the guy who carried his undersized team to the Elite 8 of the 1984 NCAA Tournament, the guy who Saturday night will be enshrined in the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in Columbus — is still Prime Time.

“Our pool team is called Prime Time,” Chapman laughed over phone from his Sioux Falls home. “I’m the captain and that’s the name I chose.”

The team won a big, three-man 8-ball tournament three months ago and just three weeks ago Chapman said he finished ninth among 80-plus competitors in another event and his team finished “in the money. … We were like in the top 8.”

Sounds familiar.

His senior season at UD, the 6-foot-4 Chapman led his team on an amazing run that drew national attention.

After starting the season 7-7, the Flyers won 10 of their last 13 regular season games, including upsetting No. 3 DePaul at UD Arena thanks to one of the most storied plays in Flyers’ history: a Larry Schellenberg rebound, a Chapman pass and Ed Young’s 12-foot shot.

Dayton then opened the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, toppling LSU as Chapman scored 29.

Two days later the Flyers outslugged No. 7 Oklahoma and its All-American Wayman Tisdale, who Chapman outscored, 41-36.

“It was like he was made for that very moment,” UD coach Anthony Grant, who was Chapman’s freshman understudy on that ’84 team, once told me.

Next up was the Sweet 16 at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion where the Flyers pushed aside No. 15 Washington as Chapman scored a game-high 22.

Even with the loss to eventual champ Georgetown, Chapman — known as Velvet to Flyers fans — ended up the leading scorer in the tournament with 104 points.

“When we went to the Elite 8 that was on national television and he got a lot of exposure,” said the Flyers legendary coach Don Donoher. “CBS did a feature on hm. They even went back to his home in Brooklyn.

“That team got more exposure than the UD teams of the 1960s and ’70s. And places I go now, I get more questions about Roosevelt Chapman than the guys who preceded him and were NBA players.”

And like Grant said, Chapman was made for the moment.

“He had all kinds of charisma,” Donoher said. “He was just a popular, popular kid from the time he first came here.”

Chapman said all these years later the bond with Dayton fans is the same:

“For some reason the Dayton fans and myself had a personal connection from the start. And now it’s to the point like I never left. People still greet me with open arms.”

It would seem to be an unlikely kinship for a close-knit Midwestern fan base and a kid who came of age, he said, in a “tough Hispanic/ black neighborhood’ in the Bedford Stuyvesant area before moving to East Flatbush.

Playing at Westinghouse High School, he had over 100 college offers, but he recalled Donoher coming to his home to recruit him:

“I thought, ‘Man, he must really want me if he comes to the ‘hood to sign me.’ That said a lot. I signed at my dining room table.”

Donoher’s efforts paid off.

Chapman scored 2,233 points, is third all-time in blocked shots and eighth in rebounds.

He was the Flyers MVP three seasons in a row and was elected to the UD Hall of Fame in 1994.

A champion in Donoher

After a pro career that began with his third-round pick by the NBA’s Kansas City Kings and included playing in Europe, Asia, the World Basketball League and the CBA, he had a couple of post-basketball jobs and then returned to UD – thanks to the efforts of Donoher, athletics director Tom Frericks and his brother, Don, in the school’s administration – to get his undergrad degree. He eventually got a masters, too.

Whenever there’s been challenges in his life, Chapman said he’s found a champion in Donoher:

“Through the years – not only on the court, but especially off it — coach has always been there for me. If I’ve had any problem in life, I can call him and he gives sound advice.”

Donoher has been the event planner for this weekend’s Hall of Fame ceremony.

“He’s put together a roundtable,” said Chapman, the appreciation showing in his voice. “He’s going to have some of the team there, guys like Larry Schellenberg, Damon Goodwin, Ed Young, Dan Christie and Anthony Grant. “

And Flyers’ 1950s’ star Chris Harris will be there for teammate John Horan, UD’s all-time leading rebounder (1,341) and 10th leading scorer (1,757.)

Chapman is driving in with his wife Bobbie, who is Native American (Sioux) and met him when he first moved to Rapid City, S.D. nine years ago.

Soon after he brought her back to Dayton when he got his grad school diploma and he said she was stunned by the attention and love he received.

“She was overwhelmed,” he laughed. “She said, ‘I didn’t know you had all this fame in you.’”

Saturday, she’ll likely hear some more old stories from his teammates and Donoher.

In turn, Chapman hopes to catch up on current times with Grant:

“I’ve pulled for the Flyers even more these past two seasons because I can identify with the coach so much more. We have such a history together.

“And I think he’s going to do really well now. I’ve seen the progression and next year he’ll have most of his own players. I think it’s going to be a good year.”

Roosevelt not Velvet

When he moved to South Dakota, Chapman got a job as a social studies teacher and basketball coach at the Crazy Horse School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

When it came to spare time, he said he asked: “What is there to do?”

He said he was told, ‘You can throw darts or shoot pool.”

He said he used to play pool on occasion at UD’s Kennedy Union with Tony Caruso, who was then the Flyers baseball coach.

Now he plays in a league two or three times a week and is doing well.

“Minnesota Fats,” Donoher chuckled. “Nothing would surprise me about him when it comes to using your hands.

“That kid had the best hands. He could juggle. Growing up he was a first baseman. He just had a great feel with his hands and I imagine that helps in pool.”

Chapman does see some similarities between shooting pool and a basketball:

“I used to shoot a lot of bank shots in basketball. I loved the glass. A lot of kids now shot more swishes. They don’t use the glass when there’s an angle.

“Now I see the table similar to a backboard. I’m pretty good with bank shots and seeing the geometry of it all.”

As for trash talking, he said he does it more now than the other guys do: “I guess that’s the Brooklyn coming out. It’s the competitiveness. It used to be (in basketball): ‘What you got? Can’t go left, so what you got?’

“Now let’s say a guy has a bank shot. I might say across the table. ‘Don’t try that bank shot because the bank is closed.’”

As far as his basketball past, he said a lot of the folks in South Dakota don’t know about his UD basketball days and especially the Velvet moniker.

“I wanted it like that,” he said. ”I was moving to a new state and starting fresh. I wanted them to know me, not for the basketball stuff, but just me as a person. I wanted to be Roosevelt versus Velvet.”

And yet it didn’t take long for him to show some of his old self.

Now he’s Prime Time.

2019 Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame inductees

• John Horan: the 6-foot-8 Rochester, Minnesota native is the Flyers career-leader in rebounds (1,341) and is 10th in scoring 1,757 points. He was named third team All American in 1955. During his four seasons, UD went 94-29, played in the NIT three times and the NCAA Tournament once as the Flyers became a nationally -recognized program. After UD, Horan was a first round pick of the Fort Wayne Pistons in the 1955 NBA draft and after six games was traded to the Minneapolis Lakers.

• Alison Bales, won two state titles with Beavercreek High, scored 1,075 points at Duke, was the No. 9 overall pick in the WNBA draft and played several years of pro ball (in the WNBA and overseas) before going to medical school and becoming a doctor.

• Mike Pratt, the Meadowdale High star, scored 1,329 points for the University of Kentucky, played two years in the American Basketball Association (ABA) with the Kentucky Colonels and then was a college coach before becoming a radio broadcaster for UK basketball and being inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.

• Larry Baker, a Graham High standout, scored 1,627 points at Wittenberg and was named a Little All American in 1971.

• Steve Moore, played and coached at Wittenberg before becoming a college head coach, first at Muhlenberg College and since 1987 at Wooster. With an 846-248 record he’s considered one of the greatest NCAA Division III coaches in history.

• Reginald Lee, who graduated from Central State University after Columbus East High, was head girls’ basketball coach at Brookhaven High School from 1981 to 2011. His teams compiled a 515-157 record and won the 1996 state title.

• The 1952 & 1953 Middletown Middies went 49-3 for legendary coach Paul Walker and won two Class A state titles.

• Other 2019 inductees include:

Players: Lauren Hill, Larry Nance Charlie Slack, Scoonie Penn, Dave Sorenson, Jodi Roth Korbas and Kaayla Chones.

Teams: the 1952 & 1955 Lockland Wayne teams

Coaches: Gary Waters, Donna Newberry, Dr. Jim Houdeshell

Referee: Mike Sanzere

About the Author