As far as the NCAA is concerned, junior guard Fred VanVleet recorded Wichita State’s first triple-double on Saturday against Missouri State. VanVleet produced 10 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in a 78-35 win and his stats dominated the post-game conversation.
Like three-pointers, shot clocks and ESPN, this is relatively new to college basketball.
WSU recognizes 10, by four players, all accumulated in the days long before anybody thought to make a triple-double a big deal. In the 1960s, players played 40 minutes fairly routinely and players missed a lot of shots. From 1951-1973, the NCAA’s rebounding champ averaged 19 or more rebounds.
Nobody seems to know when the term “triple-double” was first used. It certainly wasn’t in vogue in the 1972 when Terry Benton banked WSU’s last triple-double before VanVleet updated the record book. The best guess appears to be that Magic Johnson inspired the term in the 1980s with his versatility.
Oscar Robertson famously averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists for the NBA’s Cincinnati Royals in 1961-62. According to legend, said he would have done it every game of his career had he known the term would grow into such a big deal. The Missouri Valley Conference lists Robertson with 10 triple-doubles during his college days at Cincinnati, six in which he scored 39 or more points.
Center Gene Wiley recorded the first triple-double recognized by Wichita State on Dec. 11, 1961. The Shockers beat No. 7 Purdue 71-68 on the road and Wiley scored 12 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked 15 shots.
The story in the Wichita Eagle and Beacon the next day does not mention his stats nor the term “triple-double.” Coach Ralph Miller calls the win one of the biggest of his 11 seasons and praised Wiley’s first half.
On Dec. 21, 1961, Wiley dented Santa Clara for 17 points, 16 rebounds and 12 blocks. No mention in the Eagle and Beacon. On Dec. 11, 1967, Warren Armstrong scorched Arizona State for 33 points, 21 rebounds and 12 assists and The Eagle’s headline read: “Williams sparks Shocks to victory over Arizona State.”
Since blocks didn’t become an official NCAA stat until 1986, Wiley’s four triple-doubles (all with blocks instead of assists) are recognized only by WSU. The NCAA didn’t keep assists until 1984, so the same goes for the six by Dave Stallworth, Armstrong and Benton.
Here are VanVleet’s predecessors:
12 points, 13 rebounds, 15 blocks vs. Purdue
17, 16, 12 vs. Santa Clara
22, 23, 10 vs. Tulsa
12, 15, 12 vs. Louisville
19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists vs. Saint Louis
18 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists vs. Southern Illinois
33, 21, 12 vs. Arizona State
29, 13, 10 vs. Memphis State
19, 19, 12 vs. Loyola
20 points, 22 rebounds, 10 assists