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Yesterday: NCAA’s biggest names

Quick Question: Who is the biggest name in college basketball today?

With the tournament into its Sweet Sixteen round, you may answer Purdue center Zach Edey, who has had two of the most dominating statistical seasons in NCAA history.

But, can you rattle off roughly 10 to 20 names like we used to when we were younger? One fellow scribe told me it was Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, and he may be right. The men’s game certainly has an identity crisis.

In this week’s version of my Yesterday column – reminiscing about sports and pop culture from the 1950, 60s, 70s, 80s and sometimes before and beyond – I’ll take a look at some of the iconic NCAA players in our lifetimes, and also some related items.

Do you know who is the only former play-by-play announcer and player who is in the College Basketball Hall of Fame? What former college superstar from the 60s first name is Ferdinand? And who is the area’s all-time collegiate scorer?

Fabulous Fifties: I am too young to remember watching anyone from the 1950s, but the decade had a plethora of future NBA stars on the college hardwoods.

Wilt Chamberlain was the teen-man out of Philadelphia who found a home in Kansas. There also was West Virginia’s Jerry West, who was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakes in 1960; future Sixer Hal Greer from Marshall; San Francisco’s Bill Russell; and West Virginia’s Hot Rod Hundley, the only college Hall of Famer who was a play-by-play announcer. If you remember, Hundley worked for CBS-TV and ABC radio as well as being the inaugural caller for the New Orleans (the Utah) Jazz.

Locally, there was Palmerton and Temple’s Bill Mlkvy, Villanova’s Paul Arizin, and LaSalle’s Tom Gola. Furman’s Frank Slevy scored 100 points in a February 1954 game.

Probably the most highlighted game of the decade was the 1957 Kansas-North Carolina championship game that was played at Kansas. Chamberlain was the tournament MVP, and he scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the game. There are clips of the game on YouTube, and it can make you appreciate how good Chamberlain was. His dominance is often forgotten.

Swinging Sixties: The Sixties brought a slew of stars that we all remember from the NBA like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (did you know his birth name is Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor?), John Havlicek, Pete Maravich (also early 70s), Elvin Hayes, and Oscar Robertson among others.

Yet, there were enough pros who were outstanding college players such as Bill Bradley (Princeton), Cazzie Russell (Michigan), Calvin Murphy (Niagara), Jerry Lucas (Ohio State), Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich (UCLA), Larry Miller (Catasauqua and North Carolina) and Terry Dischinger (Purdue). Russell, Lucas, Hazzard, and Dischinger didn’t have equivalent careers in the pros, but instead they were role players. It can be easily argued that Maravich was the greatest college player of all time.

It was hard to believe that the first nationally televised (on NBC) game was Jan. 20, 1968 when UCLA faced Houston. Hayes led Houston to a 71-69, and outscored Jabbar, 39-15, in what was billed as “The Game of the Century” before nearly 53,000 in the Astrodome. Can’t say that I remember the game, but it was the beginning of the game being a staple in the sports world.

The 1960s began UCLA’s run of 10 championships from 1964 through 1975.

Super Seventies: This is the decade when the game found its wings. NBC was the prime network from 1969-81, and they aired Sunday doubleheaders from 1977-81. That set the stage for Sunday national games.

Good friend and Catasauqua head boys’ basketball coach Eric Snyder and myself rambled through a cavalcade of names that were easily recognizable.

Bill Walton, Sydney Wicks, Ervin “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird, David Thompson, Phil Ford, Artis Gilmore, Richard Washington, Keith (Jamaal) Wilkes, Bob Lainer, Austin Carr, and Rick Mount should be some of the ones that are in your first recollection.

One of my fondest memories was the 7-2 Gilmore from the 1970 Final Four that included his Jacksonville team along with UCLA, New Mexico State, and St. Bonaventure. Carr had a 61-point game and he averaged 52.1 points per game. Gilmore averaged 18.6 rebounds that season.

St. Bonaventure’s Lainer was injured in the semifinal loss to Jacksonville, which in turn lost to UCLA. New Mexico State was a traditional power back then and was led by Jimmy Collins and Charlie Criss, the latter who played in the Eastern League and local tournament teams in the Lehigh Valley.

Some you may have forgotten from their college slate are Providence’s Ernie DiGregorio and Marvin Barnes, North Carolina’s Bob McAdoo, Mitch Kupchak, and Charlies Scott, UCLA’s David Myers, Marquette’s Butch Lee, Columbia’s Jim McMillan, Villanova’s Howard Porter, and Notre Dame’s Adrian Dantley, and Tennessee’s Bernard King.

Digging even deeper, think back to Austin Peay’s James “Fly” Williams, Michigan’s Ricky Green, Memphis’ Larry Finch and Larry Kenon, Southern Louisiana’s Dwight “Bo” Lamar, Kentucky’s Kevin Grevey and Jack Givins, Pepperdine’s William Bird Averitt, Portland State’s Freeman Williams, and Texas Rio-Grande Valley’s Marshall Reyes.

Elite Eighties: Like the 70s, the 80s also saw an influx of star power, especially with the development of the big man.

Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Ralph Sampson, Ed Pinckney, Danny Ferry, Danny Manning, Brad Daugherty, and Joe Barry Carroll to cite the bigger names.

Grant Hill, Mark Aguirre, Wayman Tisdale, Walter Berry, James Worthy, and J.R. Reid, Darrell Griffith all quickly come to mind.

In the backcourt, Michael Jordan burst onto the scene as well as Pearl Washington, Chris Mullin, Johnny Dawkins, Isaiah Thomas, Hersey Hawkins, Kenny Smith, Steve Alford, and Steve Kerr.

Wilt Tunes: In 1960, Chamberlain recorded two songs, “That’s Easy to Say,” and “By The River.” He did it during his rookie year. You can check out the songs on YouTube.

Speaking of basketball-related songs, we all know the song, “Sweet Georgia Brown” that was played for the Harlem Globetrotters, who also had a cartoon show on CBS from 1970-71.

Phillies’ Phodder: Each week, I’ll offer a Phillies’ trivia question to test your knowledge. Please don’t look up the answer, but give it your best shot. Here you go...

What former Phillie was a former basketball and baseball Hall of Famer from Duke University?

Another Classic Game: In keeping with the basketball theme, did anyone have the “Sports Illustrated Basketball Strategy Game?”

The game originated in 1974 and was produced by Avalon Games.

Each player had an identical generic team to coach through a game. Included were a set of campaign game counters that allowed players to draft unique teams. Player counters had five performance ratings which are used to determine shooting and passing outcomes.

You made play-by-play decisions that were resolved by cross-referencing offensive and defensive choices on a matrix. As a coach, you made decisions about your lineup, defensive matchups, and timeouts among other facets of the game.

Trivia Two: Who is the area’s all-time collegiate scorer? Answer below.

Phillies’ Trivia Answer: Dick Groat was a basketball and baseball standout at Duke from the early 1950s. Groat ranks second with a 23.0 scoring average and is 17th on the all-time list with 1,886 points. He also had his number 10 retired, one of 13 numbers by the school. Groat hit .375 and led the team to the College World Series in 1952.

Groat spent the 1966 and ’67 seasons with the Phillies and hit .254 overall, his final two years of a 14-year career in which he hit .286 for his career. Groat was the MVP of the 1960 season and won championships with the Pirates that year and with the Cardinals in 1964.

He passed away at the age of 92 last year.

Trivia Two Answer: Palmerton’s and Moravian College star Kathy Beck is the area’s all-time collegiate scorer with 1,936 points. Pleasant Valley and Susquehanna grad Karyn Kern had 1,773, and fellow Palmerton and Xavier University standout Nicole Levandusky is third with 1,755.

Feedback…Your thoughts, ideas, and comments are always welcomed at tnsports@tnonline.com