Seventy years have passed since that first practice for the 1938-39 Kansas University freshman basketball team, yet every time Donn Mosser looks at the numeral sweater he earned, he remembers the words of coach Phog Allen as clearly as if they were delivered yesterday.
“Remember you are here first as students and second as athletes,” Mosser remembers Allen saying. “Keep your grades up. I will not build a team around players I cannot count on academically.”
Mosser, 88, said he played basketball at Kansas the first semester of his sophomore year, came down with pneumonia during finals week, and decided to give up basketball so as not to fall behind academically.
“In some ways, I regret I had to make that decision,” Mosser, a Phi Beta Kappa, said via e-mail.
In most ways, he knows it was the right call. Mosser went on to become a physician in Minneapolis. He now splits his time between there and Menlo Park, Calif. His brother Russell, 91, lives in Lawrence.
Mosser’s basketball career never advanced to the second semester of his sophomore season, but all these years later, a similarly academically motivated basketball player’s career has blossomed in the second semester of his sophomore year.
Something tells me Phog Allen would have loved coaching Tyrel Reed.
The guard from Burlington doesn’t let basketball use him. He uses basketball for the on-court thrills it gives him and for a free education that has him well on his way to fulfilling his career goal of becoming a physical therapist.
Reed, who carries a 3.5 grade-point average and has been nominated by his school for academic All-American honors, is on pace to graduate at the end of his third year of college and take an internship first semester of his fourth year. After finishing his basketball career, he plans to attend three years of physical therapy school. Who knows, maybe he can make enough money playing basketball in Europe to pay for that portion of his education.
For now, he’s enjoying his exercise-science major and his important role as a sharp-shooter off the bench.
For the season, Reed averages 7.5 points and has a .382 accuracy rate from three-point range. In the past eight games, he’s hit .452 of his three-point attempts and is averaging 9.1 points. During that span, he has played more minutes (168) than he did all last season (144).
Learning to play as well on the road as at home can be tricky for inexperienced players, but Reed appears to be getting the hang of that already. In the first three games away from Allen Fieldhouse, he made 3 of 15 three-pointers (20 percent). In the three road games since, he has hit 7 of 14 (50 percent).
“I feel comfortable shooting the big shot,” Reed said. “Growing up, I always wanted to be the one taking the big shot. Sherron (Collins) is that man this year.”
Michael Jordan was that man for the Chicago Bulls, but John Paxson and Steve Kerr, filling roles similar to Reed’s for Kansas, hit the title-winning shots in a couple of those seasons.
“If there’s a time I’m open and Sherron makes a pass, I’ll hopefully have the confidence to knock it down,” Reed said.
Sometimes he’ll hit the shot. Sometimes he won’t. He’ll always hit the books.