Saturday, February 11, 2012


1952 champs return to KU


The 1952 Kansas national championship basketball team gathered Friday night at Bill Hougland’s house, the back of which overlooks the 17th green at Lawrence Country Club.

Nobody was talking golf. Everybody was talking about how much they enjoy this season’s overachieving KU basketball team. And when they discussed the qualities of their own team of 60 years ago, they mentioned intense defense, working the ball inside and an unselfish approach to the game.

The more they chatted, the more it became apparent not much has changed with Kansas basketball in the past 60 years.

“I don’t know about that,” said Bob “Trigger” Kenney, the team’s best outside shooter and the nation’s free-throw percentage leader that year. “We had over a 40-inch vertical leap. That was all of us combined.”

Kenney lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and is in town for today’s game against Oklahoma State, a 3 p.m. tipoff in Allen Fieldhouse. Six players from the ’52 squad will be honored at halftime.

Clyde Lovellette, who dropped 33 points and 17 rebounds on St. John’s in the national title game, came in from North Manchester, Ind. Reserve Bill Heitholt made the trip from Commerce, Texas. Lawrence residents Hougland and Bill Lienhard, the starting forwards, and Al Kelley, a reserve guard, also will take center court at halftime. Health issues prevent Charlie Hoag from participating.

The Jayhawks will wear retro uniforms, although not short shorts. Cheerleaders will fashion longer skirts and bobby sox.

The 1952 and 2012 teams share more than fashion similarities.

“Very impressive,” Heitholt said of this year’s team. “They play intense defense. That’s what we were known for too.”

Also, both squads feature a superstar — Lovellette then, Thomas Robinson now.

“I love the way Robinson plays,” Kenney said. “He’s my favorite guy, and he was last year. The guy is a tough rebounder. And he’s certainly a hustler. I think he’s one of the best players in the country, if not the best. And Clyde was a great player. Not many people, I suppose, know that now. Clyde was a great shooter. He made damn near everything he shot. Three-time All-American, the premier player in his era. He led the nation in scoring and damn near everything else.”

As in ’52, Kansas does a good job feeding the ball inside, though not always to the satisfaction of coach Bill Self standing courtside or Lovellette watching from his living room.

“I saw a lot of times they could have gotten it inside and they didn’t,” Lovellette said. “I say, ‘Why don’t you get it in?’ Of course they don’t hear me in that television.”

Self gave the ’52 players a tour of the facilities Friday afternoon, and Lovellette, who had given his letter jackets to his brothers, was presented with a brand-new one, just the beginning of a weekend with a distinct family reunion feel to it.


Eric Baker 2 years, 2 months ago

Someone might have already mentioned it, but Dean Smith DID come back to KU and Allen Fieldhouse just a few years ago, for a different reunion of some of that era's players. And he wore a nice KU shirt. Just thought it should be said since a lot of people here are apparently questioning Dean Smith's affinity for his alma mater.


mbarnes1 2 years, 2 months ago

Is there somewhere to get a video copy of the 1952 championship game? I would love to watch it.


Andrew Washington 2 years, 2 months ago

Did Adolph Rupp ever come back for reunions?


jaybate 2 years, 2 months ago

In the house I grew up in, they were sacred. They were referred to only as "the '52 team." Saying it even now makes me feel awe and mystery. They were just before my time. I was born in 1954. They were the fruition of the long first great era KU...the capstone team that realized the perfection of Naismith's creation and Allen's restless, fertile genius of development and experimentation. They were legendary and hallowed and understood to be on a Mt. Olympus of basketball accomplishment. My late Father, whom I count among the third generation to grow up with the game of basketball as a staple of their childhood (b.1918), and who lived to see the first half of the Self years, and who played high school ball at Washburn because he was not good enough for KU, and beloved Allen to be the greatest coaching genius of the 20th Century, and who saw several of the NCAA championships in KC including '57 with Wilt and '64 with Wooden, and who saw most of the '52 team's home games and, and, and...that father who's opinions of the game shaped, challenged and provoked mine...that father said that '52 KU team was the greatest college basketball team ever. Long before QA nerds began to talk of such things, my father laid down the best criteria for such an assessment. He said you could no compare teams from different eras straight up, because of progress. He said you had to compare based on how dominant they were in their era. Dominance in an era could be compare analysed. Dominance to him was how much you won and what you won. He said '52's combination of an NCAA, NIT and Olympic wins, besmirched only by a 2 pt loss to a great semi-pro team was the greatest demonstration of college basketball dominance before or since. He told me this when I was 10 in 1964, after seeing Wooden's Bruins win it all. He reasserted it even in the last year of his life. I argued it hard with him for 30 years before finally being persuaded. Whoever sees this team in the field house today is seeing what remains of the greatest basketball team ever assembled. Please pay you respects. Such greatness is rare and precious.

Rock Chalk '52!


Mike Kendall 2 years, 2 months ago

The 1952 team was obviously before my time. A lot of the highlights of that team, I have read about (don't think there were video highlights back then). Lovellette had to be a man amongst boys at KU. I could only imagine what it would be like to cheer on KU back in '52. Since Lovellette was from Indiana, I wonder what he thought of the movie, "Hoosiers?" So glad that they will be honored at the game today. I am honored to have your presence there today, "52 Jayhawks! Rock Chalk Jayhawk, my friends!


741hawk 2 years, 2 months ago

Dean sent his #3 assistant. Then, after he became successful, Deanb pulled a guilt trip on Roy and called his lil' boy home, denying him an opportunity to establish a one school legacy . . . like he had!

The last reunion Dean attended, he wore a Carolina Blue sport coat.


(And, it worked out best for The Crimson and Blue. Look for those crimson jerseys today.)

Rock Chalk.


Tom Richmond 2 years, 2 months ago

I was a freshman in '52 when we won the NCAA. It was an Olympic year and the format was the NCAA champ played the NIT champ, La Salle, with the great Tom Gola. We won in NYC 70-65. We then had to play the AAU champ, Peoria Caterpillars, also in the Garden. We lost 62-60 in the last 5 seconds. Even so, KU put seven men on the Olympic team, five for the Cats and two for the Phillips 66ers. Dr. Allen was the assistant coach. We won the gold in Helsinki with Lovellette the high point man in the final against the Soviets. Bob Kurland was also a big factor in the U.S. win. There was no TV in '52 but every student bent over their radios to listen to the final in Seattle. When we won, everyone rushed from their dorms, flooding the campus, driving on sidewalks and lawns - we were up all night and greeted the champs the next day when they paraded up Massachusetts on a Lawrence firetruck. I can still see Clyde standing in the middle of the truck wearing the Fire Chief's hat.


Dee Shaw 2 years, 2 months ago

I would love to see the players of today wear the 1952 shorts. That would be classic. How can you wear the retro uniforms and allow them to wear the long shorts. Can you imagine T-Rob or Jeff Withey in those ball hugger shorts. That would be funny.


REHawk 2 years, 2 months ago

Nuts! I must have gleaned the wrong locker room info about the ankle length horizontal striped crimson and blue tights beneath the short shorts today.


UmbertoConforti 2 years, 2 months ago

dw3c. I too am glad Roy left, but was pissed at the time. mea culpa! I still don't like the Heels but I no longer have any animus towards Williams. Sorry to read that Dean Smith has a major ailment. I too pray for him.

I really thought Lovellette was the best outside and inside shooter on that team. Dean Kelley was an excellent point guard who drove the ball in the lane. His brother was a pretty good shot from the outside. I thought the team next year might have been better but didn't win the final against Indiana. At least I think it was Indiana. Lovellette could do a lot more with the ball than Born, but Born was an excellent player. I think he was the MVP despite losing in 1953. If my memory is still working OK, it might not be.


Woody Cragg 2 years, 2 months ago

I can still remember Dad going plain nuts when they won the 52' NC. Hope he's smiling today, I know I am.


Dee Shaw 2 years, 2 months ago

The reason why Dean does not come back to Lawrence is because he has Alzheimer's. Sad. Thoughts and prayers are with Dean and his family.


baldwinjhawk 2 years, 2 months ago

Yes it's sad that the Topeka high graduate can't make the effort in twilight of his life to show respect to the place that gave you your chance to make the millions of dollars you've made. Especially when nobody else wanted you. Poor form Dean!


Janet Scott 2 years, 2 months ago

Does Dean Smith come back to Lawrence anymore? He used to travel back frequently and rarely missed one of these reunions. I conclude his underhanded role in the messy Roy Williams departure from KU forever sealed his unwelcome fate to Allen Fieldhouse. Sad, really.


dw3c 2 years, 2 months ago

Just thinking about how glad I am Roy Williams left.


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