By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Bill Breedlove last saw his former Booneville High School basketball teammate, Michael Rubenstein, two years ago at a class reunion.
“I started laughing when I saw him,” Breedlove said, remembering all the shenanigans “Rube” – a tall, thin, intelligent youngster with the gift of gab – pulled while they were classmates and teammates. “He was double-jointed. He could reach over with his arm, over his other shoulder, and scratch his chin.
“We were in the cafeteria one day and he put a whole apple in his mouth. The guy was a dandy. Everybody loved him.”
Rube spent a majority of his high school hoops career warming the pine, Breedlove noted.
“He didn’t get to play much, but he was always on the bench cheering us on,” he said. “Our coach, George Oakley, wouldn’t play everybody, even if we were up a good bit.
“Rube wanted to play so bad, but he wasn’t really that coordinated … but he hung with us. He was there for every practice, running with us until his tongue was hanging out.”
Riley Presley was a member of the BHS Class of 1969 with Rubenstein.
“He had a hook shot that I always gave him a hard time about,” said Presley, who played football, but not basketball. “He’d rarely make it. It didn’t matter. He was one of a kind.”
BLUE DEVILS PRIDE
Rubenstein, who until his death last week at age 60, was the executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson, and was proud of the fact he was a Booneville Blue Devil.
“We played Tupelo my senior year at Booneville and I guarded the great Frank Dowsing. I think I held him to 35 points,” was Rube’s favorite tale about his athletics prowess.
Breedlove remembers a game their senior year against eventual four-time state champion New Site.
“Rube was always starting something,” he said. “That night he had all the guys on the bench stomping their feet, right and left, then crossing their legs, all in unison.
“Here we were playing the state champions and I was watching Rube and them horsing around on the bench. The guy kept you in stitches.”
Breedlove and Presley never thought the lovable bench warmer would later have such an impact on athletics in Mississippi.
Rubenstein became the driving force and voice behind the Hall of Fame after a 15-year career as a television sportscaster in the Jackson market. His death has left a huge void in the state shrine’s starting lineup.
“He did some great work with the Hall of Fame,” Presley said. “They’re going to miss him; we’re going to miss him.”
“Rube was a winner,” Breedlove said.