1960s: A rise to national prominence

03/04/2014 3:59 PM

08/06/2014 10:09 AM

Just like Gonzaga 2013 and Kansas 1981, the Shockers’ victory over Cincinnati on Feb. 16, 1963 at the Roundhouse was a landmark moment for the program. Cincinnati was No. 1 and the king of the Missouri Valley, but Wichita held the Bearcats without a basket for the final seven minutes. Legend in the making Dave Stallworth scored seven of his school-record 46 points in the last 3:10 and WU won 65-64. A statement victory.

A year later, WU won the Valley for the first time and hosted the Midwest Regional. Wichita beat Creighton 84-68 in the semifinals, but lost to Kansas State with a Final Four berth on the line. After the season, Ralph Miller was lured away from Wichita by Iowa after 13 seasons and 220 victories.

Assistant Gary Thompson took over the now-Wichita State Shockers. With half a season of eligibility, Stallworth played like an All-American, averaging 22 points through a 14-4 start. Kelly Pete, Jamie Thompson and others picked it up from there, winning the Valley before beating SMU and Oklahoma State in the Midwest Regional for the school’s first Final Four berth. Bad losses to UCLA and Princeton were the postscript to a magical season.

“They were good times. I think they were good times for everybody in the city,” Stallworth once said. “That’s what excited me more than anything. People had a good time going to those basketball games. It means a lot when you can get a city concerned about a team that much.”

That WSU reached the Final Four without its program-building coach and star player indicated that Shocker basketball was here to stay. But in a conference known as the “Valley of Death,” a second- and third-place finish after the Final Four led to more lower-half finishes. By the end of the decade, losing records were starting to stack up.

Season Overall MVC (Finish) Coach Top scorer
1959-60 14-12 6-8 (T4th) Ralph Miller Al Tate (16.9)
1960-61 18-8 6-6 (5th) Ralph Miller Ron Heller (17.4)
1961-62 18-9** 7-5 (3rd) Ralph Miller Dave Stallworth (19.8)
1962-63 19-8** 7-5 (2nd) Ralph Miller Dave Stallworth (22.6)
1963-64 23-6* 10-2 (1st) Ralph Miller Dave Stallworth (26.5)
1964-65 21-9* 11-3 (1st) Gary Thompson Dave Stallworth (25.0)
1965-66 17-10** 9-5 (T2nd) Gary Thompson Jamie Thompson (22.0)
1966-67 14-12 9-5 (3rd) Gary Thompson Jamie Thompson (17.8)
1967-68 12-14 7-9 (6th) Gary Thompson Ron Washington (19.3)
1968-69 11-15 7-9 (T6th) Gary Thompson Greg Carney (21.0)

* – NCAA Tournament; ** – National Invitation Tournament

Player Ht. Pos.
Warren Armstong 6-2 F
Kelly Pete 6-2 G
Ernie Moore 6-0 G
Dave Stallworth 6-7 F
Jamie Thompson 6-4 F
Off the bench
Nate Bowman 6-10 C
Greg Carney 5-9 G
Ron Heller 6-7 F
Leonard Kelley 6-1 G
Dave Leach 6-5 F
Ron Mendell 6-0 G
Melvin Reed 6-7 C
Lanny Van Eman 6-1 G
Ron Washington 6-6 F
Gene Wiley 6-10 C

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