February 12, 2006

AUGUST IN AUGUSTA:

Student plays for college basketball team at age 52 (AP, February 11, 2006)

Even with arthritic knees, a hernia and a strained Achilles tendon, [Charlie] Bickford played nine games for the team, usually as the first man off the bench. Nobody knows for sure, but it's possible he was the nation's oldest college basketball player this season.

And, Bickford is pleased to say, he never heard any jokes about his gray hair or crow's feet.

"Not one of my teammates has mentioned my age," said Bickford. "They might yell at me to say, 'Charlie, what are you doing?' But it's never, 'Boy, are you old.'"

Bickford, who is a registered nurse and lives in Belfast, returned to school last fall to get a bachelor's degree. He already holds a two-year nursing degree.

In October, he phoned UMA coach Jim Ford, who offered him an invitation to try out without knowing his age. At practice, Ford found out that he was 18 days younger than his newest player.

But when Bickford -- who is 6 feet 4 inches tall and 230 pounds -- showed strength and endurance in practice, Ford gave him the chance to suit up with the team when he became eligible at the start of the second semester.

UMA finished the season last week with seven players and a two-game winning streak after defeating Eastern Maine Community College and Unity College. Bickford, with a jersey number that matched his age, scored four points against Unity.

"He's a fan favorite, home and away," said Ford. "When he scored at Central Maine Community College, the place went nuts."

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 12, 2006 9:00 AM
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