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Bertelkamp faced FHS ‘farmers,’ had UNC offer

Knoxville has always been home for former Bearden High School and University of Tennessee basketball standout Bert Bertelkamp.

Beginning in his early days as a star guard for Bearden from 1973-1976, Bertelkamp enjoyed the competitive atmosphere of East Tennessee — especially when they played cross-town rival Farragut.

“Farragut-Bearden was a big rivalry. They would refer to us as city slickers and we would refer to them as farmers,” said Bertelkamp, one of three Farragut/West Knox Countians to be inducted into the Greater Knoxville Hall of Fame tonight [July 27] during the 25th-annual gala at Knoxville Convention Center.

While the name-calling was just part of the excitement leading up to the game, Bertelkamp’s fondest memories of the legendary rivalry were from the old Farragut gym.

“They had an old gym across the street from where the school is now. The gym was so small that you could hardly get out of bounds to throw the ball in,” Bertelkamp said. “It would be so crowded that the referees before the game would tell the captains not to worry about getting out of bounds on the sideline because the people that were sitting on the front row would be in the way.”

A small setting combined with a rowdy atmosphere created an ideal scene for the rivalry that was every bit as heated back then as it is today.

“I could remember after the game having pinch marks all over my legs where people would reach out and scratch you and hit you, so it was a really heated rivalry,” Bertelkamp said. “I loved playing there, I thought it was great.

“It was really small and there were only a few rows of seats but it was packed and really loud, it was a great atmosphere.”

With Bearden’s basketball program being one of the strongest in the Knoxville area, Bertelkamp became accustomed to winning. When it was time to begin the recruiting process, there were only two things on his mind.

“Playing time and being able to play on a good team,” Bertelkamp said. “I didn’t want to go somewhere and not win because when I was coming up there were only thirty-two teams getting in the NCAA Tournament, so I wasn’t going to go anywhere that didn’t have a chance to win their league.”

With Maryland, Wake Forest, Clemson and Duke all trying to land Bertelkamp, it came down to North Carolina and Tennessee.

“Really, it came down to North Carolina,” Bertelkamp said. “I had a dream of playing there but I didn’t really see myself playing a whole lot my first two years, and when I saw the opportunity at Tennessee to play some my freshman year and then being able to start the next three, that’s really what happened.”

Most SEC schools backed away from recruiting Bertelkamp because he already had ties to Tennessee because his father, Hank Bertelkamp, played basketball for the Vols in the 50s.

Bertelkamp went on to be a four-year letterman at UT from 1977-1980. After being a shooting guard his first two years and averaging 11.4 points-per-game his sophomore year, he was moved to point guard as a junior, where he became a prolific assist man. He averaged 6.1 points in his career and is ninth on Tennessee’s all-time career assist list with 332.

Bertelkamp was a member of the 1976-77 SEC regular season championship team with UT legends Benard King and Ernie Grunfeld, and started on the 1979 SEC tourney champion team.

During his days at UT, the Vols participated in three NCAA Tournaments.

Since the late 1990s, Bertelkamp now works alongside Bob Kesling as color analyst for University of Tennessee men’s basketball on the Vol Radio Network.

Bertelkamp also operates Bertelkamp Automation in Knoxville.

Aside from his everyday jobs, Bertelkamp is heavily involved in community service.

“I am on the board of YMCA, Knox Youth Sports, I have been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters and just a number of organizations,” Bertelkamp said. “I was the chair of the United Way campaign in two-thousand-five and we raised almost twelve million dollars for the community and that was a great experience.

“I think it is important to help other people and give back to the community any way that you can and I learned that from my family, parents and my father mostly,” Bertelkamp added. “I think that anything you can do to help other people that fits in with what you are good at and what your gifts are, then I think we are called to do that and that’s what I try to do.”

As for tonight’s honor, “That is exciting for me, it’s a great honor and Knoxville has been my home my whole life other than just a few years I lived in Nashville. ... I feel blessed that I have been selected and lucky to be selected and happy to be selected.”


Tony White Sr. of West Knoxville, another Knox Hall of Fame nominee to be inducted tonight, twice led the SEC in scoring at UT and was named conference Player of the Year as a senior for the 1986-87 season.

At 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, White ranks third in Vol career scoring with 2,219 points. He played briefly in the NBA and 10 years in Europe, then made it back to Knoxville in time to see the emergence of his son, 2006 BHS graduate and All-state standout guard Tony White Jr.


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