Saturday, February 17, 2007
Clyde Lovellette sorely wanted to attend Kansas University's 1952 national-championship-reunion festivities this weekend.
Mother Nature, however, had other plans for the 77-year-old Jayhawk phenom, who is snowed in at his cabin in Munising, Mich., located in the Upper Peninsula of the Wolverine State.
"We get snow every day. There are 50 inches on the ground," Lovellette said in a phone conversation Thursday - the day he had planned to drive to Lawrence in advance of today's 3 p.m. KU-Nebraska game.
"We had 12 inches (fall) yesterday, and we have seven coming tonight. We'll just hunker down. Once it starts snowing, it doesn't stop until spring."
Lovellette, the fourth-leading scorer in KU history, may be known best for scoring 33 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in KU's 80-63 national-title victory over St. John's on March 27, 1952, in Seattle.
For his efforts, the 6-foot-9, 235-pounder, who averaged 28.4 points a game his senior season at KU and a whopping 35 points a game in the NCAA Tournament, was named the tourney's most valuable player.
"The championship game over St. John's was a good ballgame. I don't think anybody coming down the pike could have beaten us that night," Lovellette said. "It was a great game.
"If I had to pick, I'd say the favorite games I had were in the Olympics. Even though we won the championship for Kansas and the state of Kansas, when you play in the Olympics, you are playing for the whole country. We enjoyed beating the Russians when relations were not friendly."
Indeed, in '52, Lovellette and six teammates from KU's title team led the U.S. to the gold medal in the Helsinki Games. Phog Allen, who coached the Jayhawks to the national title, also coached the Olympic squad with the coach of the Peoria Caterpillars.
Members of the 1952 KU title team were: Jerry Alberts, B.H. Born, Larry Davenport, Everett Dye, Bill Heitholt, Charlie Hoag, Bill Hougland, Wes Johnson, John Keller, Allen Kelley, Dean Kelley, Bob Kenney, Bill Lienhard, Lovellete, Dean Smith, LaVannes Squires and Dean Wells. Team manager Wayne Louderback also was an integral part of the unit.
The Jayhawks in the Olympics were: Lovellette, Hoag, Hougland, Keller, Dean Kelley, Kenney and Lienhard.
"I just can't thank them enough as far as my career is concerned," said Lovellette, an accomplished NBA player who was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988.
"Without them as teammates, I could not have gone on to have the career I had (11 years). We worked together as a unit and a family. We were a bunch of guys who went out and played and enjoyed the game. We had a great coach (Phog Allen), a great assistant coach (Dick Harp). We had fun, but took it seriously on the court.
"I will really miss being with them this weekend because we are all getting older. I couldn't have had better teammates in my college career or my pro career. I wish I could have taken them with me through my pro days."
Lovellette, the son of a locomotive engineer who grew up in Terre Haute, Ind., says his favorite team remains Kansas.
However, he hasn't been able to catch any Jayhawk games on TV this season.
He has seen a lot of Michigan and Michigan State games, however.
"Some teams you watch : they have good team play, and they work the ball. Other times you see guys run up and down court with a lot of one-on-one," Lovellette said. "They try to go slam dunk, all these other things. I guess people love it. I still like the finesse and good defensive ballclub.
"I like to watch that. You pick some teams you like to see work and play hard. Kansas is like that. Butler of Indianapolis has a tremendous team. You watch those guys work : their defense is great. They work as a unit."
Lovellette does not follow the pro game any more.
"I have no use to watch the NBA whatsoever," Lovellette said. "I see too much walking around, no defense. They say they play tough defense in the NBA. Gosh, I see guys go down the middle with little to no interference. I can't watch it. I'd rather go walk over here and see a high school game in four feet of snow than a pro game."
Lovellette remains proud of his accomplishments.
His jersey was hung in the Allen Fieldhouse rafters in 1992. Lovellette chuckles when asked about remaining KU's fourth-leading scorer of all time with 1,979 points.
"If you really look into it, the other players ahead of me played four years. I played three years," Lovellette said, noting freshmen were ineligible.
Danny Manning is the school's all-time leading scorer (2,951), followed by fellow four-year players Nick Collison (2,097) and Raef LaFrentz (2,066).
"If I had a four-year career, I'd have been on top of any of those guys. They always say fourth-leading scorer at Kansas. At one time, I was No. 1, then Danny and so forth. If I was really picky, I'd say separate it out," the proud player added.
Lovellette's 886 points in 1951-52 rank as second-most in a season behind Manning's 942 in 1987-88. His 44-point outing against St. Louis in 1952 ties for fifth-highest output in a game at KU. He's also the 11th-leading rebounder in KU history.
Lovellette, who is in good health, is scheduled for knee-replacement surgery on Feb. 26.
"I'm doing a lot of exercises to get my leg stronger for a new implant. There'll be some recovery time," he said. "I'll be inside."
He definitely wanted to relay a message to the title teammates in town this weekend.
"They are the best teammates a person could ever have. I thank them and wish them all the best," he said. "It makes you wish you lived closer to Lawrence. I have great memories of Lawrence. I've had a lot of great friends. Some passed away. I sure wish I could see them this weekend."
Memories of '57?
Were you at the 1957 national championship game to watch KU and North Carolina in Kansas City, Mo.? If so, we want to hear your stories.
Also, if you have mementos of any kind from that game, let us know, so we can make it part of our 50th-anniversary special coming next month in the Lawrence Journal-World and on KUSports.com.
If so, call Ryan Greene at (785) 832-6357 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org