A fortuitous decision by the Siena men's basketball team to have a team dinner at one of Baltimore's finest Italian restaurants on its recent trip there to play Loyola brought about a meeting between one of the NBA's greatest rebounders and the current Division I rebounding leader.
When the Saints were dining at Sabbatino's, in Baltimore's Little Italy section earlier this week, a sports-minded staff member mentioned that basketball Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, who resides in the area, was also dining in another part of the facility.
A meeting was arranged, Unseld spent about 10 minutes with the Siena players and staff, and specifically posed for a photo with Siena's O.D. Anosike, whose 12.5 rebound-per-game average leads all Division I players.
The photo, which can be found on Siena's facebook page, is a bit of a shock to the eyes since Anosike, who measures about 6-foot-7 1/2, physically towers over Unseld.
But, height wasn't what made Unseld a five-time NBA all-star, one of just two players in league history to be the league's MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season (Wilt Chamberlain is the other) and a career 14-rebound per game inside force.
After all, Unseld, a bruising player, was generously listed as being 6-7, but most inside sources claim he was much closer to being 6-5. The photo with Anosiki is proof that, at least these days, Unseld isn't anywhere near his listed height from his playing days.
Anosike towers over the former NBA star, who played for the old Baltimore Bullets from 1968-69 through 1981-82. Over that time he pulled in 13,769 rebounds, almost every one of them secured in the vicinity of taller, more-athletic inside players. In his best year he averaged 18.2 rebounds per game, and brought down 42 in one particular game.
"When you played against Wes Unseld you abused your body," said contemporary Willis Reed, in a tribute found on YouTube.
"He wasn't the biggest, the most athletic or most talented player out there, but no one ever got more out of what he had," said another contemporary, Rick Barry, in the YouTube tribute.
And so it is, in a relative sense, with Anosike, who is certainly a little undersized to be a national rebounder in rebounding. But Anosike, like Unseld, uses the force of his will to secure rebounds as much as his physical ability.
Anosike said he knew Unseld was an NBA great, but didn't know much about him before meeting, which is natural since Unseld's career was over almost a decade before Anosike was born.
"I haven't looked him up, but the coaching staff told me a little about him," said Anosike. "I knew he was a great outlet passer, and he told me he had 42 rebounds in one game.
"He talked to me for a couple of minutes, just to say to keep up the good work and that it's pretty impressive to be leading any level in rebounding. He just told me that rebounding isn't just about ability, but it's also about heart and desire."
And Unseld also displayed a nice sense of humor.
"He asked me how many rebounds a game I averaged," said Anosike. "When I told him that I was getting almost 13 a game, he responded that he used to get that many in a game just with his left hand."