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Wichita State WSU notes: Memories conjure up positive thoughts for Hall-of-Famer Stevens

  • Published Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, at 3:59 p.m.

The day after Joe Stevens learned the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame made him a member — after years of waiting — he went to work at Stevens Magic Emporium and played handball at the Downtown YMCA.

“He’s 77, but I don’t tell him,” said his wife, Martha.

Stevens played basketball for the University of Wichita from 1955-58 and ended his career as the program’s second-leading scorer (1,295 points in three seasons) and tops in free throw accuracy (80.8 percent). Former teammates kept pushing his candidacy and friend Don Steffens organized a petition. Stevens prefers not to discuss why it took so long for him to enter Wichita State’s athletic hall of fame. He is happy to spread the credit around.

“I never went to bed at night worrying about it,” he said. “At my age, it’s wonderful. I’ll share it with my teammates and family.”

Stevens grew up going to University of Wichita games at the Forum, the former downtown home of the Shockers. He remembers watching John Friedersdorf and Rex McMurray, who played in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Stevens led North to a state basketball title in 1954 and said Kansas State coach Tex Winter recruited him. An uncle advised to attend the hometown school if he wanted to live in Wichita after college. He signed on with Shockers coach Ralph Miller.

“Watching the old Shockers and hearing that ‘Hail! Hail! Wichita,’ it got in my blood,” he said.

Stevens played through a fascinating period of Shocker basketball. He opened the WU Field House (now Koch Arena) in 1955. He played against San Francisco’s Bill Russell and Cincinnati’s Oscar Robertson. His most memorable victory came in 1956, when the Shockers won at Missouri Valley Conference rival Saint Louis 109-103 in double overtime, their first win in 12 tries at Saint Louis. He played against Henry Iba’s Oklahoma A&M teams and still remembers running 36 steps to the top of the arena for conditioning.

“I knew you didn’t drive to the basket (against Russell),” he said. “I stopped and shot from 10 or 15 feet.”

Stevens played his first varsity season in the new fieldhouse and averaged 16.7 points as a sophomore. The state-of-the-art Roundhouse more than doubled the Forum’s seating capacity of 5,000.

“It was a theater for basketball,” Stevens said. “It was wonderful.”

Stevens, along with former basketball players Robert Elmore and Jason Perez, women’s basketball player Lisa Hodgson, baseball player Todd Dreifort and football player Lynn Duncan will be inducted during halftime of the men’s basketball game against Indiana State on Jan. 18. They will also be honored at a Jan. 17 dinner at Koch Arena. Tickets are $25 for the dinner. For more information call 316-978-3267.

Bluma with the save — Former Shocker pitcher Jaime Bluma is rehabbing after surgery from a torn achilles tendon. He will coach baseball from a wheelchair for several weeks.

Painful. Inconvenient. And all the result of a good deed. Bluma has no regrets.

“I’d do it again 100 times out of 100,” he said.

Bluma, who lives in Kansas City, was coming home from the Kansas basketball game against Georgetown when he witnessed a wreck on icy K-10 highway. A pickup truck crossed the median and hit a Honda CRV, causing it to roll and land on the passenger side. Bluma and his friend stopped to help. The driver climbed out of the car and said that he had two young children in the wreck. He pulled out a 12-week-old in a car seat and handed the infant to Bluma.

“That’s when my leg popped,” Bluma said. “I was reaching up there on tippy-toes and I felt like somebody shot me in the back of the leg.”

Bluma hobbled to his car with the infant. He helped the other child and two other passengers to safety.

“Everybody was OK,” he said. “I was like watching a movie. I’m just glad everybody was all right.”

Bluma went home and iced his ankle. He had surgery on Tuesday.

Bluma, who picked for the Kansas City Royals in 1996, played at WSU from 1991-94 and recorded 34 saves, second on the school’s career list.

Worth noting — WSU’s women’s basketball team will hold an alumni weekend Feb. 7-9, including a tour of Koch Arena and an alumni game. The Shockers play Bradley on Feb. 7 and Loyola on Feb. 9. Information is available at goshockers.com.… Southern Illinois men’s basketball coach Barry Hinson will not coach Sunday’s game against Miami (Ohio). Hinson is on a leave of absence following the death of his son-in-law on Christmas. He will return for SIU’s MVC opener against Wichita State on Thursday. Associate coach Tom Hankins will take over for Sunday’s game.

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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