Published March 21, 2019
TULSA — The call is replayed even now, three years later, on the scoreboard at every UB men’s basketball home game. And it will probably be played for many years to come. It’s from the 2016 Mid-American Conference Tournament championship game, when the Bulls’ Blake Hamilton drained the game-winning 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining, sending UB to its second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
“Right wing Hamilton. He shoots a three. He hits it!”
The voice on the momentous call is none other than veteran broadcaster Josh Whetzel, the radio play-by-play man for all UB men’s basketball home and away games. Whetzel has been handling these duties since the 2006-07 season. In addition to calling Bulls basketball, Whetzel is the radio play-by-play caller for the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins.
“I’ve always just liked describing the action and being the eyes and ears of the fan at home that can’t watch it,” says Whetzel, who grew up in Parsons, Kansas, about two hours north of Tulsa. “When you’re the radio announcer, you’re the camera guy, you’re the director, you’re the producer, you’re all of that.”
Beginning with last year’s MAC Tournament, Whetzel has been paired in the postseason with color analyst Paul Peck, another veteran broadcaster who does the radio calls for UB football, as well as the ESPN+ broadcasts for UB basketball home games. He also hosts the “UB Basketball Insider” show on ESPN 1520 AM.
If the Bulls make a magical March Madness run, you can bet the calls of Whetzel and Peck will be replayed well into the future, archived in the annals of what could end up being the greatest season in UB basketball history. It’s a tall order, but this duo will be ready.
“The Blake Hamilton buzzer beater — those are moments. You don’t get those very often and that’s your final exam. You have to do it right,” says Peck, who worked at WIVB-TV for 24 years and also called some of UB’s Division III football games back in the early 1990s. “Josh has had a couple buzzer beaters, that one being pretty prominent, and he’s been great.”
Whetzel recalls the excitement of the previous season’s MAC Tournament championship game, which lifted UB to its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth. Whetzel was calling the game with Jon Fuller, UB Athletics’ assistant AD for communications, handling color commentary.
“Toward the end of the game it was obvious UB was going to win and with about two minutes to go, Jon, who’s been here longer than anybody, said, ‘Josh, has anybody ever thrown up on the air?’ He was so wound up and he couldn’t believe it,” Whetzel says.
It’s that excitement that makes a radio call, especially one that captures an historic moment. “That is never a bad thing in our business,” says Peck. “If you can convey in your emotion what people at home are feeling, that’s it, man. That’s what you want to do.”
Whetzel and Peck have known each other for years, which explains their chemistry on air, despite the fact they haven’t called all that many games together. And each has a deep respect for the other. “He does such a good job on these games, I just try to stay out of the way,” says Peck. “If I can drop a little piece of knowledge in between all the stuff he’s doing, that’s really all.”
You might be surprised to learn the amount of time that goes into preparing those tidbits of information that broadcasters drop, depending on how the game is playing out.
Peck prepares a fact sheet for each football and basketball broadcast he works. This one-pager contains dozens of facts and statistics culled through hours of preparation. “There might be 100 tidbits on there and I might use five of them, but you don’t know which five you’re going to end up needing,” he says. “I think Josh and I are over-preparers, because you never know where you’ll unearth the really cool nugget. It might be in your first five minutes of prep, but it might be in hour number four.”
For Whetzel, the opportunity to call UB’s NCAA Tournament games for what is now four out of the past five years makes up for all those bleak winter road games on the MAC schedule, especially in the early years when nobody was paying attention to UB basketball.
“For the longest time, it just seemed like we’d never even get to the NCAA Tournament,” he says. “To now be at the point where UB is dominating the MAC and it’s expected that the program is going to do that year in and year out is pretty remarkable.”