It wouldn’t be a National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame without former Michigan great Cazzie Russell, one of eight inducted into the Hall on Monday.
The 6-foot-5 Russell is the greatest player in Michigan history. He finished his career with 2,164 points and averaged 27.1 points and 8.5 rebounds while leading the Wolverines to two Final Fours. He was an Associated Press first-team All-American in 1965 and 1966Cazzie Russell had enough charisma to light an arena.and a second-team during his sophomore season in 1964.
I’m flabbergasted it took Russell five years to get into the NCBHOF, which inducted its first class – a really large one – in 2006.
But what about our very own Dave Stallworth? He played at Wichita State from 1961-65 and is, in my opinion, the greatest Shocker of them all. Stallworth played for WSU at a time when the Shockers were one of the most powerful teams in the country, on the cusp of a Final Four in 1964 before finally making it in 1965, although Stallworth had graduated at the January semester break and wasn’t on the team that lost to UCLA and Princeton.
Russell and Stallworth were contemporaries. They were even teammates for six seasons with the New York Knicks, from 1966-71. When I talked to Stallworth on the telephone this afternoon, he said he has kept in touch with Russell over the years, but that they hadn’t talked for a couple of years.
Russell did have a couple of advantages over Stallworth. He played in two Final Fours and for a national runner-up team in 1965. Stallworth never got to a Final Four, although he very easily could have also played in two were circumstances different.
Russell had a better NBA career, averaging 15.1 points for the Knicks, Golden State, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls. He was the first player chosen in the NBA’s 1966 draft, although I wouldn’t think the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame would give much credence to professional credentials.
Russell and Stallworth each played in 80 college games. Stallworth had 1,936 points and a 24.2 ppg average, both less than Russell’s totals. But the 6-7 Stallworth, with a little more than an inch height advantage, averaged 10.5 rebounds to Russell’s 8.5. AndThere wasn't anything Dave Stallworth (42) couldn't do on a basketball court.Stallworth had a better field-goal percentage – .530 to .505.
They met up once in college, when Wichita State played at Michigan on Dec. 14, 1964, in a classic game. If that game were played today, it would dominate ESPN’s “Sports Center” for a couple of days. The Shockers had just moved to No. 1 in the polls that day and Michigan was ranked No. 2. Stallworth and Russell were two of the game’s biggest stars and a jam-packed crowd watched as the Wolverines beat WSU, 87-85, thanks to a last-second, 35-foot heave from Russell.
The end of the game was brutal for Stallworth, who dribbled the ball off his foot after an in-bounds play just before Russell’s game-winning shot.
“I never really had a worse moment,” said Stallworth, who scored only 11 points in the game.. “I thought I was fouled. I thought I’d get the call even on their court because it was such an obvious foul. But Cazzie took a couple of dribbles and nailed a long one.”
Russell led Michigan with 28 points and nine rebounds while Nate Bowman and Kelly Pete led’ the Shockers with 24 and 23 points, respectively.
The next season, Michigan played the Shockers at the Roundhouse. Stallworth had left for the NBA but the Shockers’ 1965-66 season held a lot of promise, that ultimately became a disappointment.
On that night, though – Dec. 8, 1965 – WSU was incredible, beating Michigan and Russell, 100-94, in front of nearly 11,000 fans. The Wolverines were ranked No. 2 going into the game and it remains one of the Shockers’ biggest and most exciting victories ever.
Russell scored 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting while teammate John Clawson had 28 for Michigan. The Shockers got an amazing performance from junior Jamie Thompson, who in my opinion is the most underrated WSU player in history. Thompson was 9 of 9 from the field and 10 of 10 from the free-throw line against Michigan for 28 points.
Teammate John Criss was nearly as good, making 9 of 10 field-goal attempts. Lillard Harris (18), Warren Armstrong (17) and Melvin Reed (16) also scored in double figures for a Shocker team that should have been a lot better than 17-10, but struggled to make up for a lack of size. the 6-foot-5 Reed was the team’s center and the 6-4 Thompson and 6-2 Armstrong were forwards.
Stallworth said he was thrilled for Russell to be inducted, and wasn’t biting when I mentioned that I thought he belonged, too.
“Well, I agree with you,” he said, begrudgingly. “But I’m just glad for Cazzie. He was one hell of a player.”