1978 men’s championship basketball team to be honored

The 1978 men’s basketball team that led then Palm Beach Junior College to its first state title is returning to campus for a reunion celebration.

PBSC will welcome back and recognize the eight-player team of Michael Bennett, William (Bill) Buchanan, Dirk Jamison, Shack Leonard, Jr., Paul Mercak, Michael Owens, Derrick Paul, Sammy Weathersbee and their coach Joe Ceravalo and assistant coach Willie Gibson at halftime during the men’s basketball game starting at 4 p.m. Jan. 26 in the gym on the Lake Worth campus.

The team, formerly known as the Pacers, took the state championship title on March 4, defeating Pensacola (then current champs), Seminole and finally Florida College. The final score was Pacers 87 to Falcons 85 with Jamison and Buchanan clinching the game.

They not only became the best in Florida, they did it with only eight players, a smaller team than the average 12 to 15 member team. Six members had to drop out because of low grades, leaving the remaining players the task of learning to play two or three positions.

“That season was such a good experience,” said Leonard, a West Palm Beach resident and former member of the team. “Even though we faced some adversity with our size, we all played hard, smart and everyone respected each other.”

Leonard and his teammates then traveled to Hutchinson, Kansas to play in the national tournament. Even though they didn’t clinch the title, they ended up being ranked seventh out of 700 junior colleges in the NJCAA with Independence College taking first and Niagara College (the 1977 champ) runner up.

“It’s an honor for us to recognize this team whose hard work and dedication was able to put us in the top 10 in the nation at the time,” said PBSC Athletic Director Tom Seitz. “This was an unforgettable season for our program as we became known on a national level. We look forward to seeing everybody back together again.”

The PBSC men’s basketball team, now called the  Panthers,  has played in the state tournament several times but has not won the state championship title. For more information, visit

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