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Black History Month Feature

By John Stampe, 02/13/20, 12:15PM EST


We honor five former high school hoopers that have made major impact in the world

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In honor of Black History Month, we honor five members of our community that have achieved extreme success in their careers and were tremendous high school basketball players in their own right.

Martin "Marty" Nesbitt (Columbus Academy 1981)

Nesbitt looked like he was going to be a City League hoops star at Columbus North after a promising junior high career playing for Coach Adolph Ramirez at Crestview Junior High, but his decision to attend Columbus Academy along with 6-foot-4  all-state forward Kevin Richardson and 6-foot-7 center Todd Alexander turned Academy into a state power in Class A. The 27-0 Vikings would fall in the 1981 state championship to Kalida 58-44.

Nesbitt would go on to play and co-captain his college team at Albion College.

Professionally, Nesbitt has turned into one of the most successful black businessmen in the nation since his graduation from Albion.

After working as a financial analyst at GMAC, he won a fellowship to study at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, where he earned his MBA in 1991. 

Nesbitt met Barack and Michelle Obama through Michelle Obama's brother Craig Robinson who was a high school basketball coach. He supported Obama's 2004 senate bid and served as the campaign treasurer on his 2008 presidential campaign.

In 2013, he co-founded The Vistria Group, a private equity firm.  Nesbitt serves on the board of Rush University Medical Center. Along with a series of other funds, The Vistria Group acquired Apollo Education Group, one of the world's largest private education providers, in 2017.

The firm has over $3.1 billion in assets under management from institutional investors like public retirement plans, corporations, endowments or foundations, high net-worth families, non-U.S. investors and financial institutions.

Nesbitt is currently serving on the foundation planning board for the home of the future Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum.

The Nesbitt and Obama families began to interweave around 1980 when Nesbitt was being recruited to play basketball for Princeton University, and Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama's brother, played on the Princeton team.

After moving to Chicago for business school, Nesbitt became friends with Obama through pickup basketball games, unaware of his friend's potential or even his Harvard Law School pedigree. They have remained best friends, golf partners and rivals on the basketball court. 

Nesbitt often is heard crediting his high school coach Jack MacMullen for inspiring his success and teaching him the importance of winning as a team.

James "Buster" Douglas (Linden McKinley 1978)

This 6-foot-4 post player for the Panthers was a member (back-up forward) of their undefeated 1977 state championship that was led by legendary point guard Todd Penn coach Jene Davis, who defeated the equally brilliant Barberton Magic in one of the most historic games in OHSAA history.

Douglas played a bigger role on the 1978 Panther squad with teammates Doug Ferguson and Trent Penn. He would go on to play at Central State University where he would achieve team MVP honors.

Thirty years ago, Douglas achieved International fame professionally when he pulled the greatest upset in boxing history with a decisive knock out victory in the Tokyo Done over undefeated Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson. Douglas was listed as a 42-1 underdog entering the fight, stunning the world and fighting in the honor of his mother Lula Pearl, who died 23 days before the title bout.

Douglas reigned as the world heavyweight champion for eight months and two weeks, losing on Oct. 25, 1990, to Evander Holyfield via third-round knockout, in his only title defense.

The former heavyweight champion Douglas is one of few non-students to ever be honored by The Ohio State University Marching Band, dotting the 'i' before a game against USC just a few months after knocking out Tyson.

Bernie Casey (Columbus East 1956)

Mr. Casey attended East High School in the mid-1950's and was a tremendous rebounder and defensive stopper for the Tigers standing 6-foot-4.  He played with the Tigers star guard Mel Nowell who would start for the 1960 Ohio State national championship basketball team.

Casey was a record-breaking track and field athlete for Bowling Green State University and helped the 1959 football team win a small college national championship.

Mr. Casey earned All-America recognition and a trip to the finals at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1960 in track. In addition to national honors, he won three straight Mid-American Conference titles in the high-hurdles from 1958–60.

Casey was the ninth overall selection of the 1961 NFL Draft, taken by the San Francisco 49ers. He played eight NFL seasons (several positions, first five seasons mainly a halfback, last three seasons a flanker.) He played six seasons with the 49ers and two with the Los Angeles Rams.

His best-known play came in 1967 for the Rams in the penultimate game of the regular season against the Green Bay Packers. The Rams needed to win to keep their division title hopes alive, but trailed 24–20 with under a minute to play. Casey caught the winning touchdown pass from Roman Gabriel with under thirty seconds to play to give the Rams a 27–24 victory. The Rams defeated the Baltimore Colts the following week to win the Coastal Division title at 11–1–2.

Perhaps the "ultimate" Renaissance Man, Mr. Casey is arguably the most multi-talented graduate in the history of the Columbus City Schools.

A highly regarded poet and painter, his 1969 book "Look at the People" was published by Doubleday and featured both his poetry and art.

Professionally, it was as an actor that Mr. Casey achieved his greatest fame.

Casey began his acting career in the film Guns of the Magnificent Seven, a sequel to The Magnificent Seven. Then he played opposite fellow former NFL star Jim Brown in the  dramas ...tick...tick...tick... and Black Gunn.

He played Tamara Dobson's love interest in 1973's Cleopatra Jones.

From there he moved between performances on television and the big screen such as playing team captain for the Chicago Bears in the TV film Brian's Song.

In 1979, he starred as widower Mike Harris in the NBC television series Harris and Company, the first weekly American TV drama series centered on a black family.

In 1981, Casey played a detective opposite Burt Reynolds in the feature film Sharky's Machine, directed by Reynolds. He reunited with Reynolds a few years later for the crime story Rent-a-Cop.

In 1983, he played the role of CIA agent Felix Leiter in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again.

He co-starred in Revenge of the Nerds and had a comedic role as Colonel Rhombus in the John Landis film Spies Like Us.

Also during his career, he worked with such well-known directors as Martin Scorsese in his 1972 film Boxcar Bertha and appeared on the television series, The Streets of San Francisco, with Michael Douglas and Karl Malden.

He played a version of himself, and other football players turned actors, in Keenen Ivory Wayans' 1988 comedic film I'm Gonna Git You Sucka. He played a high school teacher in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, released in 1989. Casey appeared as a very influential prisoner with outside connections in Walter Hill's Another 48 Hrs.. In 1992, he appeared as a Naval officer on the USS Missouri in Under Siege.

Mr. Casey died in 2017 in Los Angeles after complications from a stroke.

Alfonso Carreker (Columbus Marion-Franklin 1980)

The 6-foot-6 and 240 pound center for the Red Devils moved in to fill the void left in the frontline at Marion-Franklin after the loss of 1977 graduate and high school All-American Herb Williams. While he was a beast in the post in hoops, he did the most damage to opposing City League footballers as a defensive lineman.

Carreker would take his skills to Florida State where he would be one of the greatest defensive lineman ever for legendary coach Bobby Bowden. He would be drafted in the 1984 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers with the 12th pick.

Professionally, he was a defensive end who played eight seasons for the Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos in the National Football League. He started in Super Bowl XXIV, recording one sack and one tackle. He finished his 94 game career with 24 career sacks, three fumble recoveries and one interception. 

Greg Bell (Columbus South 1980)

Mr. Bell was one of the most exciting guards in the city his senior season at Columbus South, teaming with AAA Ohio Player of the Year Bobby Harris in the Bulldog backcourt. The tandem led South to the No. 1 ranking in the state and an undefeated regular season.  Bell who stood 5-foot-10"was a defensive wizard and physical specimen who threw down the hardest dunks of any guard to ever play in the City League. At times, games at the Fairgrounds Coliseum he played in had to be stopped until the backboard stopped swaying after he unleashed one of his furious breakaway jams.

Professionally he pursued a successful seven year NFL career after a collegiate playing career as a starting halfback for The University of Notre Dame. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 1984 draft with the 26th pick

He was a one-time Pro Bowler after his rookie year in 1984 with the Bills after having a 1,100 rushing yards and a seven touchdown season. Bell had his best year after the 1988 NFL season with the Rams, in which he had 1,212 rushing yards and led the league with 16 touchdowns. He was selected The Pro Football Weekly "1988 NFL Comeback Player of the Year." He had a similar season the year after in which Bell had 1137 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, again leading the league. Bell finished with 51 career touchdowns and 41 yards shy of having 5,000 career rushing yards.

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