Laettner, Thompson and West Among 2010 Collegiate Basketball Hall Class

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 2010

While this week’s CBE Classic will showcase some of the best players and top coaches in college basketball right now, the game paid tribute to a group of dignitaries whose contributions to the game over the last 70 years Sunday night.

Christian Laettner, David Thompson and Jerry West were among those inducted to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City. Laettner, who is still asked about his famous jump shot to beat Kentucky in 1992, left his mark as the NCAA Tournament’s all-time leading scorer and the only player to start on four Final Four teams. During his induction speech, Laettner recalled his connection to the game and to Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.  “I knew he was passionate about it and I wanted to be a part of it,” he said.  Another of Laettner’s March records is a 21-2 record in the Big Dance, a mark that he says may not fall due to the trend of players leaving early and the overall competition that the NCAA Tournament brings.  “There’s a good chance that it won’t happen because the kids want to get to the big money so fast. You never say never, though. After we repeated (in 1991-1992) everyone said ‘no one will ever repeat again,’ and Florida did it.”

Eighteen years after “The Shot,” Christian Laettner remains one of the most decorated players in NCAA Tournament lore.

Thompson was a player years ahead of his time. One of the best athletes in college basketball history, he played in an era where the three-pointer didn’t exist and dunking was outlawed. When he and Wolfpack teammate Monte Towe brought the alley-oop to the forefront in the early 70s, Thompson had to finish by timing his leap and delicately placing the ball in the hoop rather than throwing it down.  “We had a great team and a great coach in Norm Sloan,” Thompson said of his 1974 team that broke UCLA’s streak of seven consecutive national titles under John Wooden.

Jerry West, the last to approach the dais, is best known by his silhouette, which is depicted in the NBA’s logo. While he was a 10-time All-NBA First Team member, West had a prolific collegiate career. His pinnacle came in the 1959-60 season for West Virginia; In his senior season, he posted gaudy numbers, including 29.3 points per game and 16.5 rebounds per game. Fifty years after graduating, West still holds 12 WVU all-time records.  “I fell in love with the roundball, and the ball fell in love with me,” he said. “And I will be forever grateful.”  West, one of the game’s ambassadors and West Virginia’s native son, still enjoys the NCAA Tournament and endorses the parity that lead Butler to the championship game in 2010.  “It’s wonderful seeing smaller schools get the chance to play against bigger universities,” West said.

Not to be forgotten are others from of the class of 2010, including Davey Whitney, who lead Alcorn State to over 500 wins over two coaching tenures; Sidney Wicks, a 6’8 forward for UCLA often overlooked as the big man during UCLA’s dynasty between the bookends of Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton; Tex Winter, who revolutionized the triangle offense for Kansas State before bringing it to Phil Jackson at the next level; and Tom Jernstedt and Wayne Duke, longtime NCAA administrators who were pivotal in the expansion of the NCAA Tournament, both in media scope and from a participatory standpoint. Jernstedt and Duke oversaw the growth of the Big Dance from 32 teams to 48 to 64 and now 68 schools.

Brian Goodman (973 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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