West, Thompson, Laettner highlight college hoops Hall class
Christian Laettner won two national titles, an Olympic gold and played 12 seasons in the NBA.
To this day, all anyone wants to talk about is The Shot. March 28, 1992, NCAA East Regional final at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Laettner catches a long inbounds pass with the clock nearly expired, turns and shoots, and sends Duke to a win over Kentucky and on to a national championship.
"People always approach me and ask about that game, every day of the year, especially when it comes tournament time," Laettner said. "It's crazy, but I don't mind it. It's better than 'how's the weather up there?"'
Laettner joined UCLA star Sidney Wicks, West Virginia sharpshooter Jerry West and high-flying North Carolina State All American David Thompson among the eight members of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame's 2010 class announced on Wednesday.
Triangle offense innovator Tex Winter, Alcorn State coach Davey Whitney, NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt and former Big Eight and Big Ten commissioner Wayne Duke also will be inducted on Nov. 21 in Kansas City.
"What an amazing class," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, chair the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
West and Thompson are the marquee names.
They'll be recognized as founding members of the collegiate hall after being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Previous founding members of the collegiate hall include Larry Bird and Magic Johnson last year, Charles Barkley the year before and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 2007.
Before he became the figure in the NBA logo, West was a three-time All American at West Virginia, where he led the Mountaineers to three straight NCAA tournament berths, including a trip to the 1959 title game. He averaged 29.3 points and 16.5 rebounds as a senior and went on to co-captain the 1960 U.S. Olympic gold medal team before 14 All-Star seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Thompson was one of the best college players of all time, a superb leaper and shooter who was twice the national player of the year and a three-time All American. He helped the Wolfpack beat John Wooden's dynastic UCLA Bruins in the 1974 NCAA championship and was the Naismith player of the year as a senior after turning down an offer to play professionally.
"There's an argument that he may be the best college player ever," Krzyzewski said. "Certainly, in our conference, many, many people would give him that vote."
Laettner led the Blue Devils to four straight Final Four berths and won national championships his final two seasons, in 1991 and 1992. He was the most outstanding player of the Final Four as a junior and the national player of the year as a senior, when he hit that shot against Kentucky.
Wicks played on three of Wooden's national championship teams at UCLA (1969-71) and was named most outstanding player of the Final Four as a junior. The 6-foot-8 forward led the Bruins in scoring and rebounding each of his final two years and went on to play 10 seasons in the NBA.
Winter is credited with creating the triangle offense that has helped Phil Jackson win 10 NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Before that, Winter coached five college programs, including a 15-year stint at Kansas State, where he was named the national coach of the year in 1959.
Whitney, a former Negro Leagues baseball player, won 711 games in 35 years as a coach, including 27 at Alcorn State. He led the school to a berth in the 1979 NIT, making it one of the first historically black colleges to receive an invite, and took the Braves to the NCAA tournament four times.
"In Dave Whitney and Tex Winter, you have two coaches who have contributed so much to the game," Krzyzewski said.
Duke was the first employee hired by NCAA executive director Walter Byers in 1952 and wrote the first manuals for the basketball tournament and College World Series. He also began compilation of the NCAA record books and served as a member of the NCAA men's basketball committee from 1975-81, when the tournament expanded twice.
Jernstedt spent 38 years with the NCAA, first as director of special events, later as chief operating officer and executive vice president. He was instrumental in the NCAA tournament expanding its field, size and scope of venues and revenues from marketing and broadcast rights.