Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in The Eagle on Nov. 11, 1973.
When he was 14 or so, Bob Elmore came to a crossroad. Actually, it wasn’t a crossroad. It was a street, the street that divided Queens from Brooklyn.
In those days, Elmore was hanging around with several guys who belonged to gangs in Queens. “Just kid gangs,” he said. “No guns. Just chains, a few knives.”
For recreation the gangs from Queens crossed that street to fight the gangs from Brooklyn. On one such excursion Elmore came to a crossroad.
“I figured the time had come for me to make a decision. I could stick with my pals and wind up in serious trouble, or I could find something to do that would keep me out of trouble.”
He abandoned his pals for basketball. Three factors, he says, entered into the decision.
“I was a big kid, but I wasn’t big enough to scare those guys in Brooklyn. I don’t care how big you are; you can always find somebody in Queens or Brooklyn that will fight you.”
“My dad (Moses Elmore) is 6-foot-1 and weighs 245 pounds. He always told my brothers and me that he didn’t care how big we were, that if we ever got into trouble we were going to answer to him.
“When I was 14, I was well over 6-foot, so I decided basketball might be my game,” says Elmore, who now stands 6-foot-10 and is a key figure in Harry Miller’s plans at Wichita State.
His sophomore year, Elmore was a sub a John Adams High School in Queens. He sat out his junior year because of grade problems. He came back his senior year to average 16 points and 13 rebounds per game.
When he graduated from John Adams, Elmore had hopes of joining his brother Lenny at the University of Maryland. Grade problems again interfered and he enrolled at Wharton County Junior College in Wharton, Texas.
He played one year in the juco ranks, averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds a game. Miller, who had contacted Elmore his senior year in high school, then offered him a scholarship at Wichita State.
“I’m really a peaceful guy,” he says. “I thought I would probably be better off going to college in a small town like Wichita. I know my folks are happy that I decided to come out here.”
Miller calls Elmore one of the strongest basketball players he has ever seen, but the Shocker coach says that the 6-foot-10, 240-pound New Yorker is one of several candidates for the pivot position.
“Bob has only one season of high school ball and one season of junior college ball, so he is awfully inexperienced. How much he plays this season depends, of course, on his progress against the competition on our schedule,” says Miller.
“The Missouri Valley is a tough league,” Bob says. “That’s one of the reasons I came here. I think I’ve learned a lot in a short period of time and I know I’ll learn a lot more before this season is over.”
The season begins Monday night when the Shockers host the Brazilian Nationals. The Brazilians, Miller says, “could be one of the best, if not the best, teams we will face all year. Physically, they will be the toughest team we will encounter.”
But it was for such occasions that Miller recruited Elmore. Surely the Brazilians can’t be any tougher than those guys from Queens and Brooklyn.