The 50th anniversary of a phenomenal 1967 on the Minnesota sports scene is being celebrated in Sunday’s Star Tribune. Beyond the happenings with the major local teams, the trials used to select the Pan Am Games basketball team were held in early April at Williams Arena.

The fifth Pan Am Games were scheduled for Winnipeg from July 24 to Aug. 2.

There were four teams: NCAA, NAIA, AAU and Armed Forces. I was working at the St. Cloud Times, and we had the NAIA team at Halenbeck Hall for a few days before the start of the tournament in Minneapolis.

The St. Cloud State Huskies were a state college force led by Terry Porter and Tom Ditty. They reassembled more than a month after the season ended to play the NAIA All-Stars in a game that drew a big crowd to Halenbeck.

We were used to seeing Minnesota basketball, with screens to open shooters and post-ups. These were athletes from all over the country, one-and-one guys and leapers:

Earl Monroe from Winston-Salem State, Henry Logan from Western Carolina, Al Tucker from Oklahoma Baptist, Bob Kauffman from Guilford (N.C.) … on and on.

Earl would become The Pearl, of NBA fame. Tucker already had the best nickname: Al ‘’Where’s the Fire” Tucker.

The NAIA team was warming up. Someone dunked. Someone else dunked more decisively. Soon it was a contest that filled Halenbeck with roars.

Finally, Where’s the Fire went up, laid the ball on the rim and bopped it in with his nose. There was your winner.

The NAIA team then went to Williams Arena and won the tournament. The NCAA team, with Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, Jo Jo White and Sonny Dove, lost two of three games.

Monroe was the tournament standout. Of course, he wasn’t named to the Pan Am team by the stuffed-shirt, 40-man selection committee.

Too much individual play, apparently. The committee also neglected to select Hayes, the Big E.

The Yanks won the gold medal in Winnipeg, and Tucker was the MVP of the tournament. Where’s the Fire. We loved him at Halenbeck.

PLUS THREE

Also notable from 1967:

• Van Nelson, from St. Cloud State (and Minneapolis Washburn), won the distance double — 5,000 and 10,000 meters — at the Pan Am Games.

• Arthur Ashe headlined the Pan Am tennis trials at the Minikahda Club. He lost in the semis in Winnipeg in singles and settled for a bronze medal.

• Gophers basketball played at No. 2 Houston and No. 1 UCLA in a nine-day period in December, losing big in both in what would be John Kundla’s final season.

Read Patrick Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at preusse@startribune.com.

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