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Archive for Saturday, February 2, 2002

Defense key for champs

February 2, 2002

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It's 50-year reunion weekend for Kansas University's 1952 NCAA men's basketball championship team.

Returning for festivities, which will include a halftime ceremony at today's KU-Colorado game, are players Jerry Alberts, B.H. Born, Everett Dye, Bill Heitholt, Charlie Hoag, Bill Hougland, Al Kelley, Bob Kenney, Bill Lienhard, Clyde Lovellette, and Dean Smith, plus team manager Wayne Louderback.

"I hope the people get a chance to see those guys and make them feel good about that national championship 50 years ago. It's a big day for us," KU coach Roy Williams said, hoping the fans greet the champs with thunderous applause.

It is a close-knit team. The squad returned for KU's 100 Years of Basketball Celebration a couple years ago and also returned to see Bud Stallworth score 50 points against Missouri during a reunion weekend in 1972 and various other times for games.

The '52 Jayhawks beat St. John's, 80-63, in the NCAA championship game. It was KU's first official title squad, the 1922 and '23 teams were voted national champs by the Helms Foundation.

"Of course, Clyde was the main reason we went so far," said Hougland, who despite an injured leg scored five points and had six rebounds in the title game.

Lovellette exploded for 33 points, while Kenney and Lienhard had 12 apiece and Hoag nine.

"The defense Dick Harp put in set us apart," noted Hougland, who played host to a gathering for his teammates Friday night before the squad's banquet tonight at the Alumni Center.

Harp was assistant on Phog Allen's KU coaching staff.

"It was kind of like the defense KU plays now not as good as now but we tried to get in the passing lanes," Hougland said. "That was all Dick Harp. Our defense carried us through."

Lienhard agrees.

"At the time, the defense we used was an unknown thing cutting off the passing lanes," Lienhard said. "It's the same thing Roy is using today. Dick Harp developed it and Dean (Smith) took it to North Carolina."

Lienhard said Lovellette's the main reason KU won the crown.

"Clyde was a super player. At 6-9 he was a giant. Today he'd be a guard or something," Lienhard said with a laugh. "We did have a lot of balance on that team. It's a little like this (KU) team. We had excellent outside shooters and could handle the ball. We were seven deep.

"Doc (Allen) was the motivator. He got everybody ready to play. The coaching part ... Dick had a lot to do with it."

In the title game, Lovellette hit 12 of 25 shots and nine of 11 free throws. He also had 17 rebounds.

Kansas never trailed. The Jayhawks led 41-27 at halftime and were never threatened the final half.

"When the game started they decided to play zone and shut Clyde down," Lienhard said. "They packed it in on Clyde and left the rest of us open. Kenney and I had good shooting nights the first half. Five of the field goals I hit were in the first half, all from what today is three-point range. They left us wide open. After that, they came out and it opened it up for Clyde. Clyde was a great center, a great scoring machine."

The Jayhawks finished with a 28-3 record. The Jayhawks opened the season with 13 straight victories before losing back-to-back contests at Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

KU went on to play in the U.S. Olympic Playoffs where it lost to Peoria, Ill., in the semifinals.

"We were not very quick. Nobody in those days was very quick. We were slow and couldn't jump, but everybody could shoot," Hougland said. "Clyde couldn't dunk the ball. He wasn't very fast, but had quick hands. He could move outside and shoot."

Of the living members of the team, only Larry Davenport and La Vannes Squires are not scheduled to attend. Davenport lives in Colorado; Squires' location is unknown.

"We've stayed in contact throughout the years. It's pretty amazing," Lienhard said of team unity.

Does it seem like 50 years since the title?

"Yes, right now it does," Hougland said with a laugh. "You get to be our age, it seems a long time ago, but when we get together, it doesn't."

"It's always nice to get together. You see the fellas it's like time hasn't passed," said Al Kelley, who like Lienhard and Hougland live in Lawrence. "It's a nice group of young men, actually we're not young men anymore," Kelley added with a laugh.

In addition to today's halftime recognition, KU officials will unveil a painting of the team by artist Ted Watts that will be mounted in a fieldhouse hallway.

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