Nickname: "Mr. Excitement"
MEMORIES OF DENNIS OECHSLI: "I was a gym rat growing up in Louisville and was always going to Kentucky Colonels games whenever I could beg, borrow or talk my future father-in-law out of his seats. I remember going to a playoff game one Sunday evening. The Colonels were in a rather tight game when 'Mr. Excitement' Wendell Ladner checked in. He hadn't been in the game but a few minutes when he made one of his patented diving saves of an errant pass directly in front the the Colonels bench. He saved the ball but crashed back first into the water cooler next to the bench. At this time, the bottles on the top of the cooler were made of glass. The bottle smashed to the floor and Wendell landed on the shards of broken glass. He jumped up quickly and tried to get back to the floor but the trainer stopped him because he was bleeding profusely from gashes in his arm. Play was stopped and Wendell was led to the locker room soaked in blood. The crowd was silent figuring that this was the last they would see of Wendell. Thirty minutes later, he came sprinting back to the bench with as I remember over 100 stitches in his arm. He begged to re-enter the game, but sanity prevailed and Wendell was placed at the end of the bench for his own protection."
Sound Clip -- January 1974: Ladner reacts to being traded from the Kentucky Colonels to the New York Nets
From 1972 to 1974, Wendell Ladner was a fan favorite with the Kentucky Colonels. In January 1974, though, the Colonels suddenly shipped Ladner and Mike Gale to the New York Nets for John Roche. To Ladner, the trade was completely unexpected. While he was happy to join another excellent ABA team, he was shocked and dismayed to be leaving the Louisville area.
At the time of the trade, New York trailed Kentucky in the Eastern Division standings. After adding Ladner and Gale to its roster as dependable reserves, New York surged past Kentucky to win the Eastern Division title and the 1974 ABA Championship.
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