With university basketball season coming to a close on Monday of this week and the upcoming NBA playoffs coming up on the horizon, many old round ball memories come to mind.
I recall a famous basketball game of decades ago. It was in the late ‘40s during a Reno City League contest. In those days of yore, the Nevada State Journal’s Sports Page devoted a lot of ink to goings on in the City League, even to publishing box scores of all the games.
This particular ancient clipping was authored by the late Ray Gardella. It starts off with, “In one of the greatest comebacks ever witnessed in Reno City League Basketball, McCaughey Motors—after being able to tally only 9 points in the first half—came back sensationally in the second half to score 40 tallies and hand mighty Roy’s Clothiers their first defeat in 36 starts, 49-43. It was a great reversal of form for the Motormen in the second half that turned the trick as McCaughey boomeranged back from a 25-9 half time deficit”.
For senior readers who followed sports in that era, some recognizable names appeared in the box score. For McCaughey; the writer, Bissett, Brown, York, Dunn, Holmes, Johnson and Siler. For Roy’s; Subda, Beasley, Loftus, Wilson, Knudson, Snider and Larson.
While the Roy’s team was comprised of numerous individuals in the 6’4” range, the star of the game was McCaughey’s Earl Dunn, who was the highest scorer in Nevada High School history (46 points). A diminutive 5’10”, he was as deadly a shooter as Steph Curry of today’s Warriors.
The most ancient occurred during my high school years when the tiny St. Anthony’s school five was competing against much larger foes. Located in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, St. Anthony’s had a total of 60 students; 45 girls and 15 boys. As there were only nine athletes available, the only team the small could field was in basketball.
During my freshman year we had to play all our games away because a brand new gym was being constructed on the school grounds. We had lackluster seasons for the first two years and were pleasantly surprised when a dynamic new coach showed up for the third season. His name was Joe Gusweiler and he had been an all-American basketball player at Kentucky under famous coach Adolph Rupp. Following his college career, he played for a number of years with the professional House of David Five, which operated much like the Harlem Globetrotters of today.
As we only had nine players, Gusweiler himself would join the second team to play against the starting five. On those occasions, we were amazed to see that none of his basketball skills had deteriorated. He was able to do a couple of tricks that I have never seen duplicated by any college or any professional player.
The first one was that he could dribble in from either side at full speed and use his head to put the ball through the hoop. The other was when he routinely played center for the second string, he would instruct the guards to throw the ball in to him, while he crouched with both hands on his knees and once again used his head to direct a pass to either forward.
Because southern Florida was home to many military installations at that time, there were a number of high powered service basketball teams. Most of those players were former college standouts. Somehow Gusweiler got a list of the better teams and invited them to scrimmage us on weekday practices. After getting drubbed during the week competing against high school players was a cakewalk. To illustrate this point I can remember three consecutive games where St. Anthony’s scored some memorable wins. They were 115-21 at DelRay, 90-7 at Dania, and 70-12 in Miami. At half time in the Dania contest, their team had failed to score a field goal. Gusweiler implored us to not let them get a field goal in the second half. Their final total of seven points came exclusively of free throws.
We had a strong junior season beating teams from much larger schools, but it was in our senior year that we won the southeast Florida championship. The most important aspect of basketball for me was that I was able to come to Nevada courtesy of a roundball scholarship courtesy of crusty coach Jim Aiken.