Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in The Eagle on Feb. 15, 1997, the day Ernie Moore was inducted into the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame.
Dave Stallworth came to Wichita in 1960 and became the most amazing player in Shocker basketball history. But Stallworth’s first year on campus was when he learned what amazing was.
Amazing was named Ernie Moore.
“He was a sophomore and I was a freshman,” Stallworth said. “I’m out there with this guy, and he was just taking people to school.
“I learned so much of the game from Ernie, it wasn’t even funny.”
Moore finally gets his due tonight, when he is inducted into the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame at halftime of the Evansville-WSU game. Pitcher Jim Newlin and tennis player Roberto Saad are the other members of the 19th induction class.
Stallworth calls Moore the greatest guard to come through the Roundhouse.
He had quickness that came in handy when harassing defenders, a court sense that made him a valuable assist man and was a 45-percent shooter for his career.
In Ralph Miller’s system of using two guards as point men and scorers equally, Moore was talented at both giving up the ball or taking it to the basket.
“I loved to score like anyone else,” Moore said, “but Ralph changed my game to be very well-rounded. I was out of control sometimes, but Ralph toned me down a little bit.”
And with Moore in the lineup, WU was 57-23.
Moore, who works in the pretrial release program for the Wyandotte County court system in Kansas City, Kan., doesn’t appear in many of the career lists because statistics from those years weren’t kept as extensively. There’s little doubt that Moore should be among the Shockers’ career steals leaders. He stole the ball seven times against Drake in 1963, which has been equaled twice in the past 34 seasons.
“We didn’t have to work that hard on offense,” Moore said. “Maybe more than half of our offense came from good, sticky defense.”
How good was Moore? Well, he and Stallworth agree that had he been eligible for the NCAA Midwest Regional in 1964, the school’s first Final Four appearance would have been in 1964, not a year later.
Moore played high school ball at Kansas City Sumner, where the only college he heard about was Kansas. But KU coach Dick Harp sent the 5-foot-10 Moore a letter saying, “You’re too short.”
But Moore was ineligible during the second semester of his sophomore year, 1960-61. He played two more full seasons, then was allowed to play during the second semester of the 1963-64 season by the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Shockers thought that meant Moore could play in the NCAA Tournament, too. But on the day WU beat North Texas State to tie for the conference crown, the NCAA’s three-man eligibility board told the Shockers that Moore couldn’t play in the tourney.
“That was a national championship right there,” Stallworth said.
Moore’s final game came four days later, in the playoff with Drake for the Valley’s automatic bid into the tournament. Playing in KU’s Allen Fieldhouse on a court where the coach didn’t want him, Moore scored 19 points and helped Wichita to a 58-50 victory.
WU dominated Creighton in the first round of the regional at the Roundhouse, then lost to Kansas State 94-86 for a spot in the Final Four.
“Sammy Robinson (of K-State) was the guy who beat us,” Stallworth recalled. “Hell, this man couldn’t hold Ernie with a bucket.”
So if Moore could be the greatest guard in Shocker history, why did it take almost two decades to vote him into the Hall of Fame?
“For some reason, they just forgot him,” said Stallworth, a member of the first induction class in 1979. “I don’t know why.”
Moore doesn’t care. Thursday, he did a telephone interview just after receiving a surprise proclamation by the Wyandotte County court making today Ernie Moore Day and just before posing for photos for the Kansas City Kansan newspaper.
“I have a very, very vivid imagination,” Moore said, “but nowhere or no way did I think I would be inducted into anybody’s Hall of Fame.”