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Archive for Saturday, November 24, 1990

CHAMBERLAIN NOT FIRST TO BREAK COLOR BARRIER AT KU

November 24, 1990

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The granddaughter of Phog Allen, Judy Morris, was perturbed when a source in a recent Journal-World news story indicated Wilt Chamberlain broke the color line for Kansas University basketball. Wilt may have had a hand in needed civil rights changes here, but a couple other guys The Phogger brought in earlier also played important roles.

First black student listed as playing basketball at KU was Lavannes Squires, a Wichita East High graduate who made his debut in the early 1950s. (Wilt's freshman year here was 1955-56.) ``Scooter,'' who lettered in 1953 and 1954, wasn't a great college cager, but he was a good citizen who later entered banking.

Let's not forget an outstanding Kansas City, Mo., product, Maurice King, now an executive with Hallmark Cards in KC. Reece was on the athletic board selection committee that helped sign Roy Williams for KU. His letter-winning years were 1955-56-57. King was an All-Big Seven junior the year Wilt was a freshman. Before that, Chuck Mather recruited blacks such as John Francisco and John Traylor for KU football.

BOTH SQUIRES and King were on NCAA finalist teams here. Scooter was a squadman when KU won the NCAA in 1952 and lettered the next season when Kansas was NCAA runnerup by a point to Indiana. King started at guard on the 1957 Kansas NCAA finalist team which fell 54-53 in triple overtime to North Carolina in Kansas City. Reece's late flurry darn near won it for the Jayhawks.

Both King and Squires have been active on behalf of KU, considerably better than Chamberlain has done. KU has made every effort to weave The Stilt into the Crimson and Blue fabric, extending all kinds of speical invitations for him to return and participate.

Apparently, something soured Chamberlain on his KU-Lawrence connection. Unless he is the greatest secret friend KU has ever known, he's been incredibly absent from such categories as testimonials, fund-raising, recruiting and the like a tremendous contrast to the positive and productive feedback other black alumni such as Gale Sayers, Jim Dumas, Mike Shinn, Nolen Ellison, et al, have provided the old school.

``I DON'T want anyone to forget that Phog was recruiting minority kids considerably before many of the schools in the country,'' says Judy Morris, Doc's proud granddaughter. ``Wilt had the big reputation. But Scooter and Reece are just as famous in their own way, and I don't want anyone to overlook them or the things Phog did in the field of race relations. He was ahead of the game here, too.''

Wilt owns the high-profile; a lot of other guys have quietly done better work on behalf of KU.

Recruiting: You couldn't pay an ad agency to crank out a better testimonial for Roy Williams' Kansas court program than has emerged from the current signing period. Player after player and prep coach after coach has sung the praises of Williams and his staff in selling what KU has to offer and the positive and upbeat way they've gone about telling the Jayhawk story.

THAT COULD pay big dividends in the months ahead, with both athletes and their families. The kid Missouri recently signed, the only allowable recruit for MU for next year, said KU was after him and used negative material about how the Tiger program would be hurt by NCAA sanctions. I'd like to have a recording of what was said to him. Roy and Co. don't operate that way.

Also interesting is that Roy is honest with kids about their major college chances. Story is Roy had to tell one kid he might not be good enough at the Big Eight level, and the kid indicated he might go to a junior college to sharpen up for the big-time. Roy knew of his good grades in a field that requires five years and said it would be a waste of his academic talents, that the kid should go to a major school right off because of academics.

Maybe such candor hurts a little now, but 10 years from now the kid and his family likely will be grateful.

WHAT HAPPENS here if Dean Smith decides in four or five years to retire as North Carolina coach? Up to now, it's been pretty well accepted that veteran assistant head coach Bill Guthridge, an ex-Kansas Stater, would take over (no, NOT Larry Brown!).

But Guthridge is no spring chicken himself and reportedly is in good enough financial shape he wouldn't need the money. So Bill might step out at the same time Dean does. You hear Eddie Fogler mentioned as a Dean successor, but the guy Tar Heelers talk about first nowadays is KU's Williams, like Fogler a Smith protege.

You can be sure the Carolina package for a Smith successor will be a nifty one. Even a Jayhawk loyalist like Williams could have his head turned by things like fat annuities and such, along with a good salary and benefits.

Fortunately, KU has some time and tradition to devise ways to keep Roy, Carolina be damned.

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