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Thread: US Basketball Memories – 60 Years Ago

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    Default US Basketball Memories – 60 Years Ago

    1959 Pan American team trials and exhibition games.

    The 3rd Pan American Games represented the top event of 1959 US basketball international season, for many reasons.

    First, Pan Am Games were scheduled to be held in the US (Chicago, Aug 27 – Sept 7), then US basketball had to defend two previous gold medals (1951 & 1955) and finally 1959 was the pre-Olympic year.

    It is true that in January 1959 the 3rd Fiba World Championship took place in Chile, but due to the timing no college nor AAU/NIBL (the Industrial League) players were in fact available and an Air Force All-Star pick up team was sent to the world tournament, badly losing to USSR and Brazil. This ruinous outcome was an additional reason why the 1959 Pan Am Games were felt as the event to redeem US basketball on the international scenario.

    For the Chile debacle see also this interesting read: https://www.si.com/vault/issue/42713/23

    Taking no chances on another Chile fiasco, US gathered together the best amateurs on a round-robin trials tournament from April 2-4 in Louisville, KY, to select the Pan Am games team.

    Two squads from AAU/NIBL were invited, the national AAU champ Wichita Vickers and runner-up and NIBL champ Bartlesville Phillips Oilers, both reinforced with a couple of players borrowed from other NIBL teams, as well as an Armed Forces team. From colleges, an All-Stars pick up selection was assembled under the coaching of West Virginia’s Fred Schaus.

    AAU/NIBL teams were among the best at amateur level, as they fielded ex college stars who would not join NBA, at that time not offering very lucrative contracts and on a limited number of available spots. AAU/NIBL players earned a job from their companies and played in their leagues in winter, up to the national AAU tournament usually organized late in March in Denver. Players kept their amateur status and often represented US in international competitions, World championships and Olympics.

    At the Pan Am tryouts observers felt that Wichita and Bartlesville were favorite to win the tournament, because of their experience and cohesion. Though fielding several All-Americans, the College All-Stars were the underdogs, as they never had played together as a unit.
    The Advocate-Messenger • Thu, Apr 2, 1959 • Page 8

    Trials rosters:

    Armed Forces: Jack Adams (Eastern Kentucky, YoG 1956), John Brewer (Kentucky, 1957), Andrew Brown (Knoxville Coll. 1956), Conrad Burke (UCLA, 1958), Darnell Haney (US Naval Academy, 1959), Bob Jeangerard (Colorado, 1955), Joe Leone (Canisius, 1957), George Linn (Alabama, 1956), Ted Savage (Lincoln U., Mo, 1958), Adrian Smith (Kentucky, 1958), Richard Smith (Alcorn State, 1956), Jack Sullivan (Mount St. Mary’s, 1957), Bill Von Weyhe (Rhode Island, 1957), Dick Welsh (Southern California, 1955).

    Jeangerard and Welsh had been members of the Air Force team representing US at the Fiba WC few months earlier in Chile. Jeangerard also played in the 1956 US Olympic team. Tallest and only player over 2 m. was Haney.

    Bartlesville Oilers: George Bon Salle (Illinois, 1957), Art Bunte (Utah, 1956), Dallas Dobbs (Kansas, 1956), Bill Evans (Kentucky, 1955), Tom Fuller (Oklahoma State, 1954), Dick Haga (Stanford, 1959), Burdette Haldorson (Colorado, 1955), Phil “Red” Muller (Drake, 1958), Don Ohl (Illinois, 1958), Bobby Plump (Butler, 1958), Terry Rand (Marquette, 1956), Harv Schmidt (Illinois, 1957), Arnold Short (Oklahoma City, 1954), Gary Thompson (Iowa State, 1957).

    Evans and Haldorson were members of the 1956 Olympic team. Bon Salle had played the 1957-58 season in Italy starring for Olimpia Milan and had been named AAU 1959 “Rookie of the Year” with the Denver Truckers.

    Wichita Vickers: Don Boldebuck (Houston, 1956), Bert “B.H.” Born (Kansas, 1954), Dick Boushka (Saint Louis, 1955), Bill Johnson (Nebraska, 1954), Allen Kelley (Kansas, 1954), Dean Mel Kelley (Kansas, 1953), Joe King (Oklahoma, 1958), Lester Lane (Oklahoma, 1955), Jerry Mullen (San Francisco, 1955), Nick Revon (Southern Mississippi, 1954), Chuck Schramm (Western Illinois, 1957), Charlie Slack (Marshall, 1956), Lionel Smith (Missouri, 1957), Dan Swartz (Morehead State, 1956).

    Born, Johnson and Al Kelley were former members of the 1954 US WC team, Dean Kelley had played at the 1955 Pan Am Games and Boushka at the 1956 Olympics. Boldebuck (7-0) was the trials tallest player (his teammate Wade “Swede” Halbrook was even taller at 7-3 but injured and dnp) .

    College All-Stars: Hugh Ahlering (Evansville, DII, 1959), Bob Boozer (Kansas State, 1959), Leo Byrd (Marshall, 1959), John Cox (Kentucky, 1959), Bob Ferry (Saint Louis, 1959), Don Goldstein (Louisville, 1959), John Green (Michigan State, 1959), Rudy LaRusso (Dartmouth, 1959), Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati, 1960), Doug Smart (Washington, 1959), Walt Torrence (UCLA, 1959), Jerry West (West Virginia, 1960).

    Boozer was the NBA 1st overall pick, others 1st round being Green (6th pick) and Ferry (7th). 2nd overall pick Bailey Howell of Mississippi State was invited to the tryouts but declined to participate for academic reasons. Other college stars turning down invitations were Don Hennon, Joe Rucklick and Tony Windis.

    Statesman Journal • Thu, Apr 2, 1959 • Page 14

    Games were to be played under international rules (30” clock). Interestingly, the clock rule had been adopted for the first time by AAU at the recent 1959 tournament.
    The Paducah Sun • Thu, Apr 2, 1959 • Other Editions • Page 37
    A.H. Grundman, The Golden Age of Amateur Basketball: The AAU Tournament 1921-1968, page 193.

    Trials results:

    Day 1

    Wichita 89 – Armed Forces 73 (Boldebuck 24, Swartz 16, Lane 11, Boushka 10 – A. Smith 25, Adams 12, R. Smith, Savage 11).

    7-foot Boldebuck took control of the backboards and Wichita rolled over A.F. Soldiers.

    College All-Stars 89 – Bartlesville 83 (Robertson 23, West 22, Green 20 – Haldorson 20, Ohl 13, Murrell 10).

    Though just juniors, Robertson and West confirmed their already established stars status, but hero of the game proved to be “Jumpin” Johnny Green, a 6-foot-5 formidable athlete from Michigan State with great leaping ability and good inside shooting.

    In the words of John Dietrich, UPI, via The Daily Herald • Fri, Apr 3, 1959 • Page 9,
    Green was the night’s biggest star as he added 20 points and grabbed 27 rebounds…The Collegians, although they have been playing together less than a week, displayed remarkable teamwork. And their accuracy was outstanding as they converted 53.7% of their shots from the field.
    Day 2

    Bartlesville 86 – Wichita 61 (Bon Salle, Murrell 16, Short 12, Haldorson 11, Bunte 10 – Swartz 19)

    College All-Stars 93 – Armed Forces 77 (Robertson 26, West 17, Byrd, Green 12 – A. Smith 18, Adams 16)

    Once again College selection was impressive. With the game still open at 59-50 five minutes in the second half, Robertson hit seven points and West four while the Armed forces were being shut out. Green took over the backboards for the second consecutive night. He got 18 rebounds and 12 points before leaving the game with 10’ to go.

    The Paducah Sun • Sat, Apr 4, 1959 • Page 11
    The Pantagraph • Sat, Apr 4, 1959 • Page 8

    Day 3

    Bartlesville 74 – Armed Forces 72 (Haldorson 27, Short 10 – Savage 12, Adams, Leone 11)

    College All-Stars 88 – Wichita 80 (Robertson 27, West 20, Torrence 10 – Boushka 19, Schramm, Swartz 10)

    Robertson had a great performance, although playing the second half with a four-foul burden, leading the Collegians to the third victory. Wichita ended up with a 1-2 record, while Bartlesville finished 2-1 mainly thanks to the scoring of Haldorson, leaving the Armed Forces winless.

    The Pantagraph • Sun, Apr 5, 1959 • Page 29

    US initial team

    Following the tryouts the finalists selection was named and winning team’s Schaus appointed as head coach.

    US Pan Am team (14 members):
    Colleges (7): Byrd, Boozer, Goldstein, Green, Robertson, Torrence, West; Bartlesville (3): Bon Salle, Evans, Haldorson; Wichita (2): Boushka, Swartz; Armed Forces (2): Adams, Jeangerard.

    Alternates (6):
    Colleges (1): Cox; Bartlesville (3): Murrell, Rand, Thompson; Armed Forces (2): A. Smith, Sullivan.

    Lubbock Morning Avalanche • Mon, Apr 6, 1959 • Page 9

    Michigan State’s Green, one of the top players at the trials, emerged as the big surprise considering his lack of basketball background.

    From The Morning Call (Paterson, New Jersey) • Thu, Jul 9, 1959 • Page 18:
    Green, a spectacular 6-5 human jumping jack, was the Knicks’ No. 1 1959 draft selection after leading the Spartans to the Big Ten title…The development of this Dayton Ohio, lad as a basketball star is extraordinary in the light of his background. He never played high school basketball. He learned the game while serving in the Marines. His introduction to the game competitively was with the Atsugi air base team in Japan. He enrolled at Michigan State under the GI Bill and without scholarship aid. Now 25, Green holds the record for the best shooting percentage in Big Ten history, a .538 clip during his junior year.
    Co-chairman of the Pan American Games basketball committee and DePaul famed coach Ray Meyer considered the team as the strongest ever assembled by US for any type of international competition.
    The Eugene Guard (Eugene, Oregon) • Fri, Jul 10, 1959 • Page 13

    The 14-member squad and 6 alternates were due to begin practice from August 9 and later play a couple of tune-up games in Cincinnati with the AAU-NIBL team Cleveland Pipers.

    Before resuming training, the Pan Am team lost Green, who was signed by the Knicks in July.
    Knicks’ coach Fuzzy Levane was thrilled by the player’s strength under the boards and his amazing jumping ability. Green had been the sixth overall choice in the 1959 draft and Levane was pleasantly surprised that the Michigan State co-captain was still available. "If the draft had been held a week later, I think he’d have been grabbed off before Boozer and Howell, who were one-two” said Levane. A few days after the draft Green played in fact at the Pan Am team trials…and he emerged as the tournament’s most valuable player.
    The Morning Call (Paterson, New Jersey) • Thu, Jul 9, 1959 • Page 18

    Under consideration for Green’s replacement were Adrian Smith and Terry Rand, and head coach Schaus opted for ex Kentucky guard Smith. Another US team casualty was Torrence who joined the Army during that summer. He was replaced by ex Iowa State star Gary Thompson, at 5-10 the shortest of the group. Thus the members of the tryouts winner College All-Stars decreased to five.

    Exhibitions games

    The definitive US team was set to meet the Cleveland Pipers on August 21 and 23. The two exhibitions were to be played on four 12’ quarters and with the widened free throw line of the pros but using the 30” clock instead of 24”.

    The Pipers, who would turn pro for the ABL in 1961, included several ex 1959 college star players, like Johnny Cox (a former Pan Am team alternate), Pitt’s Don Hennon, Marquette’s Jim McCoy, Purdue’s Willie Merriweather, Tennessee’s Gene Tormohlen and Tennessee State’s Ben Warley. Newly appointed coach was John McLendon who had just left his famed Tennessee State University.

    Of game 1, actually postponed to Aug 22 for technical reasons, only the result is known, 109-76 for the US team with Oscar Robertson who led the way with 18 points playing just two periods.

    Game 2 was played on Sunday, Aug 23, and US team won again, 114-87 after a closer first half (48-45). The winners were again sparked by Robertson with 29 points, while Cox finished with 22 for the losers. Others scoring in double digits: Bon Salle, West 14, Swartz 13, Boozer 11 for US team, Warley 13 and Corny Freeman (Xavier 1958) with 12 for the Pipers.

    The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) • Mon, Aug 24, 1959 • Page 46

    The game was tied 15 times in the first half, then Bill Evans registered his lone field goal to put the US team ahead 57-56 and the college star-studded combination easily pulled away from the tiring Pipers. The exhibition, played for the Olympic Fund, attracted 5,146 spectators to the Cincinnati Garden.
    The Cincinnati Enquirer (Cincinnati, Ohio) • Mon, Aug 24, 1959 • Page 46


    Few days later, the US team would open the Pan Am tournament with a 93-73 victory over Canada and cruise to a 6-0 record defeating world champion Brazil 93-79 for the title game and so avenging the poor showing of Santiago, Chile, the previous winter.
    Last edited by carlo; 12-29-2019 at 11:48 PM.

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