The Gophers were the winners in this winter’s most entertaining game at Williams Arena last Tuesday — 95-89 over Iowa, an outfit that has gone from contenders to the Big Ten’s leading underachievers in the stretch of the season.
The reason for the entertainment value was simple: Players made jump shots.
As a one-time basketball nut, I yearn for the days when the pure jump shooters were a focal point. I yearn for the basketball that preceded the three-pointer — not the inside/outside game of today, but this game:
When a team would set as many screens up top as necessary and finally its marksman would come off one and fire on the move. When an adept shooter would see even numbers on a break and pull up from 16 feet and make a jumper, smooth as a baby’s bottom.
I grew up as a fanatic for the state basketball tournament in the 1950s and was mesmerized by the jump shooters. I always remember Dick Peik, a guard from Brownton (1958) because he flung a soaring jumper from behind his head to produce a wonderful swish of the net.
We remember the 1960 Edgerton Flying Dutchmen from 1960 as Minnesota’s greatest underdog story ever. And what’s the first thing we say in our retellings? “Man, those kids could shoot …’’
The best state final ever was Marshall 75, Cloquet 74 in 1963 — a duel of jump shooters, Terry (Turk) Porter and Loren (Whitey) Johnson for Marshall, Dave (Mouse) Meisner and Mike Forrest for Cloquet.
The Mouse had an amazing double leg kick on his jumper. And The Turk … I covered him at St. Cloud State, and reveled in seeing Red Severson’s team relentlessly set screens to get Porter a 23-footer.
My boss at the St. Cloud Times was Mike Augustin. And over beers, Augie would repeat the tale of when the coach of the Springfield Tigers gave him the assignment to guard Belview’s magnificent jump shooter, Jon Hagen.
“It wasn’t so bad that he got 50, but almost every time he let it go, Hagen said, ‘Two,’ and he was right,’’ Augie would say, and we would howl.
Plus Three from Patrick
Favorite on-the-move jump shooters that I’ve covered:
- Trent Tucker, Gophers (1978-82): How many jumpers did Tucker take that wouldn’t have been threes today? “Not many,’’ he replied.
- Terry Porter, St. Cloud State (1964-68): Watched him put on a shooting display that dazzled an NAIA all-star team, including Earl Monroe.
- Mark Hall, Gophers (1978-81): His nickname was “Cash,’’ as in the cash he hoped to make in pro basketball. Didn’t happen, but Hall definitely was money with the 17-foot pull-up.