Thursday, September 5, 2013
Guy Lewis: His top 10 players
By Dana O'Neil
Elvin Hayes led Guy Lewis' Houston teams to national prominence in the late 1960s.
Editor's Note: Three legendary college basketball coaches -- Jerry Tarkanian, Rick Pitino and Guy Lewis -- take center stage this weekend as the trio is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. We'll be devoting a day to each as we examine what made them HOF-worthy. Here is Tuesday's tribute to Tarkanian and Wednesday's to Pitino.
A list of Guy Lewis’ best players reads more like a college basketball history book.
Some of the biggest talent to play the game lined up for Guy Lewis at the University of Houston. Three of them beat Lewis into the Hall of Fame, in fact.
More than their scoring, though, is how they affected the game. Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney changed the face and the race of college basketball. They were the first African-American players to suit up for the Cougars and among the first in the South.
Meantime, players such as Hakeem (then Akeem) Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Michael Young -- better known as Phi Slama Jama -- helped usher in a new high-scoring, high-flying style of basketball.
Now Lewis, the architect of all of that history and success, finally takes his rightful place in the Hall.
1. Elvin Hayes: A Hall of Famer himself, the "Big E" led the Cougars to two Final Fours and one "Game of the Century," the 1968 battle against UCLA at the Astrodome. He would average a head-shaking 31 points and 17.2 rebounds for his career, and he will introduce his coach at the induction ceremony this weekend.
2. Akeem Olajuwon: The Dream led the Cougars to back-to-back national championship games and into the Phi Slama Jama era. Twice an All-American, Olajuwon in 1984 led the nation in field-goal percentage, rebounding and blocked shots. He, too, is in the Hall of Fame.
3. Clyde Drexler: The Glide made basketball effortless ballet, collecting more than 1,000 points, 900 rebounds, 300 assists and 250 steals in his career. With Olajuwon’s help, he helped change the way the game was played, leading Houston twice to the title game. Yep, another Hall of Famer.
4. Otis Birdsong: Birdsong helped shepherd UH into the Southwest Conference, averaging 26.1 points his junior season and following it up with SWC and All-American honors as a senior. In 1977, he led the Cougars to the NIT title (back when that was a big deal), and left Houston with 2,832 points.
Hakeem Olajuwon was still a very raw talent when he was part of Lewis' Phi Slama Jama squad.
5. Michael Young: One of just three players in UH history -- along with Hayes and Birdsong -- to score more than 2,000 points in his career, it was Young, not Olajuwon or Drexler, who led the Cougars in scoring during the Phi Slama Jama run. He averaged 17.3 points as a junior and 19.8 as a senior.
6. Don Chaney: On the game’s biggest stage -- literally, at the time -- Chaney shone. In the "Game of the Century," he played all 40 minutes, scored 11 points, pulled down six rebounds and led with his defense to help the Cougars beat mighty UCLA. Another of Lewis’ prolific scorers, he left Houston with 1,133 points.
7. Lou Dunbar: At 6-foot-9, Dunbar was an oddity: a big man who played point guard. Eventually he’d become a trailblazer, making way for the likes of Magic Johnson, but in the 1970s, he was one of a kind. Dunbar’s real fame, though, would come post-Houston, when he’d go by "Sweet Lou" for the Harlem Globetrotters.
8. Alvin Franklin: Yet another member of Phi Slama Jama to score more than 1,000 points -- Franklin had 1,684 in his career. He still ranks in the top 10 in the Cougars' record books for field goals attempted and made.
9. Rob Williams: The homegrown player was a natural scorer. As a freshman, Williams averaged 16 points per game, pushing that to 25 as a sophomore, and 21 in his junior year. Like his Phi Slama Jama teammates, Williams’ name is still all over the school's record books.
10. Ted Luckenbill: He helped get Lewis’ career started, leading the Cougars to their first winning records under their new coach. He averaged 16.6 points and 9.7 rebounds in those two seasons and scored more than 1,000 points in his career.