Welcome to the first installment of the BOTC K-State Sports Bracket (introduced earlier today), where we decide together on our favorite K-State sports personalities. We'll kick things off in the Basketball region, which matches up K-State hoops legends of all eras.
When choosing the 16 competitors, I began in the obvious place: the rafters in Bramlage. Ernie Barrett, Rolando Blackman, Bob Boozer, Mike Evans, Dick Knostman, Lon Kruger, Willie Murrell, Jack Parr, Mitch Richmond, and Chuckie Williams are the ten men whose jerseys watch over the Octagon, and I couldn't leave them out of the bracket. Coaching legends Jack Gardner, Tex Winter, and Jack Hartman were also obvious candidates, bringing my total up to 13.
The job gets tougher from here. Clearly, my methods so far skew to players from bygone eras, so I decided to get younger with the final three selections. Ultimately, I chose Michael Beasley, Jacob Pullen, and Steve Henson. For those of you who want to study up before participating, K-State Athletics has a nice piece here with capsules on the players with retired jerseys. Also of interest are the wikipedia articles for Winter, Gardner, Hartman, Henson, Beasley, and Pullen.
Now, if choosing the participants was tough, seeding them was even harder. You get to see my decisions below, and if you disagree with my seedings, well... you're probably right. But it's too late now! Below, you'll find a description of each match up. At the bottom of the article, you'll be allowed to vote for you favorite in each pairing, with the highest vote-getters moving on the to the next round. Have fun, and feel free to campaign for your favorites down in the comments section.
(1) Ernie Barrett vs. (16) Jack Parr
My seeding system consisted of many subjective factors, but one rule was absolute: If your nickname is "Mr. K-State", then you're a number 1 seed in this bracket. Such is the case for Barrett. He also happened to be an outstanding player, an All-American and the leader of 1951's national runners-up. He would return to his alma mater as an assistant coach, and served as Athletics Director from 1969-75.
Parr gets the low seed here mostly because of my age bias. He was a multiple-time All-American, though, and still holds the school record for career and single-season rebounds per game. Parr sadly passed earlier this year at the age of 78.
(8) Jack Hartman vs. (9) Jack Gardner
I'll be honest, I didn't know exactly where to put these two in comparison to all the players around them. So, naturally, I put them right in the middle to go up against each other.
Let's check the tale of the tape: Hartman's tenure (1970-1986) included two conference coach of the year awards, two conference titles, four Elite Eights, and six Sweet Sixteens. Gardner (1939-1942, and again from 1946-1953) won three conference titles and went to two Final Fours, including the 1951 NCAA national championship game. Hartman is the school's career leader in wins (295), and Gardner is a member of the Naismith and National Collegiate Basketball Halls of Fame. Hard to go wrong here.
(5) Bob Boozer vs. (12) Willie Murrell
Boozer was an absolute monster at K-State from 1956 to 1959. His career included two conference championships, two All-America selections, two conference POY honors, and a trip to the Final Four. His senior year average of 25.6 points per game is the second highest single-season number in school history.
Murrell only spent two years as a Wildcat, but he made them count. On his career, he averaged a double-double of 20.6 and 10.7 rebounds per game. In the 1964 NCAA Tournament, he averaged 25.3 points per game while propelling his team to the Final Four.
(4) Lon Kruger vs. (13) Chuckie Williams
As you know, Kruger was not only a standout player in his days as a Wildcat (conference POY in both 1973 and 1974), but also led his alma mater as head coach for five years. His run culminated in four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a berth in the Elite Eight in 1988. Since then, Kruger's career has taken him to various head coaching gigs in college and the NBA, and he's the only coach to lead five different programs to the NCAA Tournament.
Williams was another in a long line of great Wildcat scorers. He played on two Elite Eight squads and one conference champion. As a Junior, Williams averaged 22.1 points per game, and his single game high (47 points) stood as the school's all-time mark for nearly 20 years.
(6) Rolando Blackman vs. (11) Jacob Pullen
Blackman retired as the school's second leading scorer, but scoring wasn't his only trick. In fact, he was named Big Eight defensive POY three (!) times, as well as POY once. After being selected 9th overall in the 1981 NBA draft, Blackman enjoyed a productive 11-year NBA career which included four All-Star game appearances.
Meanwhile, you'll remember Pullen as the school's career leader in points and steals, as well as a leader of the 2010 Elite Eight squad. You might not have known that, since his time on campus, Pullen has actually procured citizenship in the Caucasus-region nation of Georgia. He has featured on its national basketball team in international competitions (though not recently, as far as I can tell).
(3) Mitch Richmond vs. (14) Dick Knostman
A junior college transfer, Richmond averaged 20.7 points per game in his two years in Manhattan, and was the leader of the 1988 Elite Eight squad. His senior year total of 786 points was at the time the school's single-season record. After being chosen fifth overall in the 1988 draft, Richmond went on to have the most distinguished pro career of any Wildcat, culminating in last year's induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. My favorite Richmond stat? Only six NBA players averaged 21+ points in each of their first 10 seasons in the league: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Oscar Robertson, and... Mitch Richmond.
Knostman is another victim of my age-related biases - my dad was still in diapers by the time he finished his career in 1953. Still, Knostman was a multiple-time All-American and a member of Kansas State teams which finished top-10 in the polls for three consecutive seasons. His 22.7 points per game from the 1952-53 season is still the third best single-season average in school history.
(7) Michael Beasley vs. (10) Mike Evans
Both players here were remarkable scorers. Beasley's lone season in Manhattan was outstanding, averaging 26.2 points and 12.4 boards per game on the way to conference POY and first-team All America honors. You might think he is under-seeded here, but he suffers in my book for having only spent nine months on campus.Evans spent four years on campus, and finished his career as the school's all-time leading scorer with 2115 points. He was named conference POY twice (1977, 1978) and won a Big Eight title in 1977. After being taken in the first round of the 1978 NBA draft, Williams spent nine years in the league and averaged 7.7 points per game.
(2) Tex Winter vs. (15) Steve Henson
If we're talking overall impact on the game of basketball, Winter wins here hands down. An early adopter and innovator of the famed triangle offense, Winter picked up nine NBA championships as an assistant to Phil Jackson with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. But his accomplishments as K-State head coach from 1953-1968 stand on their own merit. Winter-led Wildcat teams made two Final Fours, four Elite Eights, and six Sweet Sixteens. The run also included eight conference championships, and a UPI National Coach of the Year honor in 1959.
Looking at it now, I think I've under-seeded Henson a bit. A four-year starter at point guard, Henson's teams never missed the NCAA tournament. He tops the school career charts in assists, minutes, and free throw percentage, and is second in steals. Outside of basketball, Henson also competed for the track team as a decathlete, twice placing third in the event at the conference championships. After college, Henson played briefly in the NBA before joining the coaching ranks, serving on the staff of his former coach Lon Kruger. Perhaps he will follow in his mentor's footsteps and coach at his alma mater some day?
The bracket is set, you know the match ups, it's time to vote! This poll will stay open until Sunday night. Be sure to tell your friends, and look for round 1 of the Football region tomorrow.