THE TOURNAMENTS AND THE MAN WHO

Not all the best college basketball players or teams were at Madison Square Garden. But the Holiday Festival had one thing no other tournament could claim: Bill Russell
January 09, 1956

Possibly the most important fundamental in the training of a basketball team is in goal shooting, for the winning of a game depends on this. Goal shooting is to basketball what putting is to golf.
—Adolph Rupp, CHAMPIONSHIP BASKETBALL

Virtually no one with even the most rudimentary knowledge of the game of basketball is prepared to argue this point with Kentucky's Coach Rupp. Basketball is a shooting game and the requirement for victory is an ability to shoot more goals and score more points than the other team. Yet for almost a year college basketball has been dominated as never before by a man who, basically, cannot shoot. His name is Bill Russell and if he ever learns to hit the basket someone is going to have to revise the rules.

From the moment, as an almost unknown junior, Russell began to lead the University of San Francisco into national prominence last season, people have been writing and talking about this amazing string bean and his phenomenal feats. From the West Coast the word filtered across the mountains early last year that here was a basketball "find," one of the real giants of the game; by March, when the Dons beat Tom Gola and La Salle for the NCAA championship at Kansas City, Bill Russell was accepted nearly everywhere as the best college basketball player in the nation.

There remained, however, a hard core of nonbelievers; or, if not nonbelievers, at least a group willing to be convinced but determined to first see with their own eyes and then pass judgment for themselves: the aficionados of Madison Square Garden who, through the years, have watched men like Luisetti and Mikan and Cousy and Macauley and Gola perform their magic and are seldom convinced by mere words alone. So last week, as Coach Phil Woolpert of San Francisco brought the nation's No. 1 team—and No. 1 player—into New York for the annual Holiday Festival Tournament, the crowds packed the big sports arena from the sidelines to the ceiling (once equaling the maximum attendance figure of 18,500) to see for themselves.

At first they greeted Russell with a stubborn silence. Then, when he failed to shoot like a Carl Braun or dribble like a Bob Cousy or feed like a Dick McGuire, their silence changed to hoots and jeers for this big shuffling man who was so evidently not the complete basketball player. On offense he ambled lazily to a spot near the free-throw lane, almost reluctantly took passes from his teammates and quickly shoveled the ball away to someone else. And finally, when his guard strayed away to ponder from a distance the incongruity of this All-America who wouldn't shoot, Russell did begin to shoot from a distance of a dozen feet—and missed badly, not once, not twice, but three straight times, easy little shots that any good basketball player could sink with his eyes shut tight. What then, asked the crowd, can he do?

Russell showed them—and convinced them there are other skills to the game of basketball than dribbling or passing or even shooting. As the tournament progressed and San Francisco moved steadily ahead into the finals, the looks of doubt and derision changed into looks of incredulity and awe. For the things which Russell can do he does superlatively well, perhaps better than anyone in college basketball has ever done them before. All the words they had read had not really prepared the crowd for Bill Russell.

Physically he is 6 feet 10 inches tall, has such amazing spring that he high jumps over 6 feet 7 without undue exertion (or soars so high after a rebound his head is above the basket) and has the speed to run the quarter-mile in 49.6 seconds (or cover a court like a late-evening shadow). His arms are tremendously long, even for a man of such height, and attached thereto are hands which curl around a basketball rather as a small boy grasps a large apple. Moreover, he has the reactions of a featherweight fighter—quickness and timing—and great competitive spirit beneath an almost phlegmatic exterior.

But these are only words, too, and to the basketball fan who must see for himself they mean next to nothing. What the Garden crowds saw was a player who could drop off his man on one side of the court, take two immense strides and shoot into the air like a rocket to block a shot thrown up by an opposing forward flashing in unguarded from the opposite side of the court. They saw a player who could come down with 62 rebounds against magnificent athletes like 6-foot 7-inch Tom Heinsohn of Holy Cross and 6-foot 5-inch Willie Naulls of UCLA. A player who went up, time and again, to pluck a wild shot by a teammate from the backboard and cram it down through the basket while friend and foe alike watched helplessly far below. A player who (although he couldn't hit from outside) was deadly on soft little hook shots right under the basket; who made it the height of absurdity for an opponent to try to pass through the middle area he was guarding; who batted so many seemingly sure shots away from the basket it was discouraging (and psychologically unnerving) to anyone with his hand on the ball and a goal-shooting gleam in his eye.

Without Russell, San Francisco's 33-game victory streak would never have survived the first round of the Garden tournament. The Dons trailed La Salle until the big fellow began to wage a one-man war under the basket, finally emerging with 22 rebounds, 26 points and a fistful of blocked shots to his credit. San Francisco won 79-62. Against Holy Cross in the semifinals Russell outplayed Heinsohn in one of the stirring man-to-man duels of Garden basketball history. In the opener against Syracuse, Heinsohn had scored 36 points; Russell stopped him with 12 (all on long shots from outside), scored 24 himself, had 22 rebounds and batted away half a dozen shots. San Francisco won 67-51.

In the finals, a backyard California brawl transported 3,000 miles for the occasion, his teammates virtually gave Russell a night off in appreciation of earlier efforts in their behalf. K. C. Jones and the rest of the San Francisco lineup ran rings around UCLA, out-shot the Bruins, outrebounded them, forced them into errors with a defense so tight it was frustrating and won by 70-53. Russell, under no pressure to come through with another big performance, took things easy. Even so he seized 18 rebounds, scored 17 points and earned an overwhelming vote as the tournament's outstanding player over such competition as Heinsohn, Naulls and Duquesne's Sihugo Green, an All-America who tied the tournament record with 39 points against Fordham.

The Garden tournament was really Bill Russell's show.

Dixie Classic. Raleigh, N.C., is the hub of an area which natives believe to be the most formidable basketball locality in the world. Last week, to prove it, they sent out North Carolina State, North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest, all located within a 15-mile radius, to challenge four outsiders in the seventh annual Dixie Classic. State (ranked No. 3 nationally) was unbeaten; so were North Carolina (No. 4) and Duke (No. 8). The first round gave North Carolinians immediate joy: the invaders from Villanova, Minnesota, Oregon State and Wyoming all lost. Then North Carolina came from 16 points behind to defeat Duke in one semifinal 74-64 and State beat Wake Forest 70-58 in the other. In the final, a match which the Southland has been looking forward to all year, North Carolina State beat North Carolina 82-60 and won its sixth Dixie Classic championship. Lennie Rosenbluth of North Carolina, who scored 35 points in the opener against Villanova, wound up with 73 in three games for the tournament's high-scoring prize. But Ron Shavlik, State's All-America candidate, scored 50 and rebounded magnificently to win the most-valuable-player award.

Sugar Bowl. Just to make a fourth—and because Notre Dame had won the tournament last year and really couldn't be ignored—the Sugar Bowl invited the supposedly weak Irish to round out a field including strong Utah, Alabama and Marquette. But the tournament's soft touch turned out to be otherwise and Notre Dame wound up champion again. The Irish startled six-point favorite Alabama in the first round with an 86-80 victory. Big Lloyd Aubrey scored 35 points for Notre Dame and his teammate John Smyth threw in 21. Meanwhile Utah was beating Marquette 89-84 and setting a tournament scoring record on the way. But the next night the Utes lost their All-America candidate, Art Bunte, on fouls after a few minutes of the second half and went down before Notre Dame 70-65 in the finals. Smyth scored 27 points this time and was named the most valuable player.

Motor City. There was no collapse of form at Detroit. Terrible Terry Tebbs, Brigham Young's 5-foot-8 guard, scored a record 36 points as the Cougars beat Toledo 89-70 in the opener, and added 31 more in the finals when Brigham Young beat Detroit 99-77.

Orange Bowl. West Virginia came up with a new formula (more team play and less dependence on the individual brilliance of high-scoring Hot Rod Hundley) and ran off with the tournament. The Southern Conference invaders beat Miami in the finals 83-78 after disposing of Florida State and Columbia along the way. Hundley was held to 47 points in the three games and had to take a back seat to both Chet Forte, Columbia's great little guard, and sharpshooting Dick Miani of Miami. Miani scored 25, 35 and 22 points for tournament scoring honors; Forte, who had game totals of 30, 34 and 14 to complement his slick floor work, was named most valuable player.

Southwest Conference. This year's tournament at Houston was notable for three things: Rice lost its undefeated record; the Southwest Conference proved it could indeed play more-than-adequate basketball by inviting in a good outsider and then belaboring the guest not once but twice; and Temple Tucker, the 6-foot-10 Rice sophomore, proved to be just as good as they said. The 76-73 SMU overtime victory over Rice for the championship wasn't too much of a surprise despite Rice's 10-0 record; the two teams have been rated about equal all season. Southern California, the lone outsider in the affair, beat Baylor 72-59 in first-round action but then lost to SMU 70-64 in the semifinals and to Texas 71-63 in a third-place game. Tucker scored a total of 102 points, including 43 (a record) against Texas A&M.

Big Seven. Iowa State and 5-foot-10 Gary Thompson raced through the massed opposition at Kansas City like a cyclone through a wheatfield, winding up with a 67-56 victory over Kansas in the championship game. Thompson, an outstanding playmaker and a great clutch shooter, scored 60 points and was named the tournament's most valuable player. Closest shave for the winners was a 55-52 victory over Colorado in the semifinals when Thompson had to get hot in a hurry to eke out a victory.

MAJOR COLLEGE TOURNAMENTS

ALL-COLLEGE (Oklahoma City)

Champion: Tulsa
Outstanding player: Junior Born, Tulsa
Championship round:
Oklahoma A&M 65—Texas Tech 47
Oklahoma City 74—Penn 62
Seattle 74—Loyola (N.O.) 70
Tulsa 60—Idaho State 59
Oklahoma City 48—Oklahoma A&M 47
Tulsa 68—Seattle 66
Oklahoma A&M 63—Seattle 52 (3rd place)
Tulsa 65—Oklahoma City 58 (final)
Consolation round:
Idaho State 87—Loyola 65
Penn 60—Texas Tech 58
Loyola 70—Texas Tech 63 (7th place)
Idaho State 84—Penn 79 (5th place)

BIG SEVEN (Kansas City)

Champion: Iowa State
Outstanding player: Gary Thompson, Iowa St.
Championship round:
Colorado 88—Oklahoma 65
Iowa State 79—Kansas State 71
Kansas 75—Cornell 58
Missouri 71—Nebraska 66
Iowa State 55—Colorado 52
Kansas 73—Missouri 56
Missouri 82—Colorado 79 (3rd place)
Iowa State 67—Kansas 56 (final)
Consolation round:
Kansas State 86—Oklahoma 64
Nebraska 70—Cornell 69
Oklahoma 71—Cornell 68 (7th place)
Kansas State 79—Nebraska 51 (5th place)

DIXIE CLASSIC (Raleigh, N.C.)

Champion: North Carolina State
Outstanding player: Ron Shavlik, N.C. State
Championship round:
Duke 71—Wyoming 54
North Carolina 86—Villanova 63
N. C. State 59—Oregon St. 54
Wake Forest 87—Minnesota 83
North Carolina 74—Duke 64
N. C. State 70—Wake Forest 58
Duke 64—Wake Forest 52 (3rd place)
N. C. State 82—No. Carolina 60 (final)
Consolation round:
Wyoming 69—Villanova 68
Minnesota 64—Oregon State 60
Villanova 68—Ore. State 63 (7th place)
Minnesota 70—Wyoming 66 (5th place)

GATOR BOWL (Jacksonville)

Champion: Clemson
Outstanding player: Vince Yockel, Clemson
Clemson 100—Louisiana State 95
South Carolina 85—Georgia 68
Louisiana St. 91—Georgia 86 (3rd place)
Clemson 94—South Carolina 87 (final)

HOLIDAY FESTIVAL (New York)

Champion: San Francisco
Outstanding player: Bill Russell, USF
Championship round:
Holy Cross 87—Syracuse 74
San Francisco 79—La Salle 62
UCLA 93—St. Johns 86
Duquesne 73—Fordham 70
San Francisco 67—Holy Cross 51
UCLA 72—Duquesne 57
Holy Cross 61—Duquesne 57 (3rd place)
San Francisco 70—UCLA 53 (final)
Consolation round:
La Salle 75—Syracuse 72
St. Johns 97—Fordham 85
Syracuse 79—Fordham 61 (7th place)
La Salle 85—St. Johns 76 (5th place)

MOTOR CITY CLASSIC (Detroit)

Champion: Brigham Young
Outstanding player: Terry Tebbs, BYU
Brigham Young 89—Toledo 70
Detroit 91—Penn State 58
Penn State 78—Toledo 66 (3rd place)
Brigham Young 99—Detroit 77 (final)

ORANGE BOWL (Miami Beach, Fla.)

Champion: West Virginia
Outstanding player: Chet Forte. Columbia
Championship round:
Miami 92—Yale 90
Tulane 80—NYU 72
Columbia 76—Santa Clara 73
West Virginia 78—Florida State 69
Miami 86—Tulane 75
West Virginia 70—Columbia 60
Columbia 64—Tulane 61 (3rd place)
West Virginia 83—Miami 78 (final)
Consolation round:
Yale 71—NYU 70
Santa Clara 61—Florida State 59
Florida State 85—NYU 83 (7th place)
Yale 86—Santa Clara 67 (5th place)

RICHMOND INVITATIONAL (Richmond)

Champion: Cincinnati
Outstanding player: Dick Gaines, S. Hall
Championship round:
Cincinnati 93—Virginia 69
Richmond 96—Army 84
Seton Hall 64—Virginia Tech 60
Wm. & Mary 100—Rhode Island 96
Cincinnati 82—Seton Hall 81
Richmond 72—Wm. & Mary 60
S. Hall 80—Wm. & Mary 55 (3rd place)
Cincinnati 89—Richmond 60 (final)
Consolation round:
Army 99—Rhode Island 74
Virginia 103—Virginia Tech 85
Virginia Tech 80—RIU 59 (7th place)
Virginia 86—Army 71 (5th place)

SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE (Houston)

Champion: Southern Methodist
Outstanding player: Temple Tucker, Rice
Championship round:
Rice 110—Texas A&M 81
So. California 72—Baylor 59
So. Methodist 67—Arkansas 62
Texas 66—Texas Christian 60
Rice 80—Texas 72
So. Methodist 70—So. California 64
Texas 71—So. California 63 (3rd place)
So. Methodist 76—Rice 73 (final)
Consolation round:
Baylor 67—Arkansas 63
Texas Christian 67—Texas A&M 59
Arkansas 80—Texas A&M (7th place)
Baylor 62—Tex. Christian 49 (5th place)

SUGAR BOWL (New Orleans)

Champion: Notre Dame
Outstanding player: John Smyth, Notre Dame
Notre Dame 86—Alabama 80
Utah 89—Marquette 84
Alabama 77—Marquette 75 (3rd place)
Notre Dame 70—Utah 65 (final)

WINTER INVITATIONAL (College Park, Md.)

Champion: George Washington
Outstanding player: Joe Holup, Geo. Washington
Geo. Washington 69—St. Francis (Pa.) 58
Michigan State 95—Maryland 75
Maryland 69—St. Francis 56 (3rd place)
Geo. Washington 65—Mich. St. 62 (final)

OTHER COLLEGE GAMES

Bradley 71-COP 49
Bradley 80—Dart. 74
Butler 89—Princeton 70
California 62—Wis. 55
California 70—Iowa 45
Colo. A&M 63—Idaho 58
Dayton 86—Wash. & Lee 54
Geo Wash. 82—Wyo. 75
Idaho 72—Col. A&M 62
Illinois 102—Drake 66
Indiana 94—Butler 70
Kentucky 101—St. L. 80
Loyola (Bait.) 75—Siena 67
Loy. (Chi.) 77—Bowl. Gr. 68
Marquette 72—No. Dak. 37
Mich. 79—Denver 69
Mich. 80—Brig. Y. 79
Miss. So. 60—Wash. St. 56
Northwest. 74—Dart. 60
Ohio St. 83—De Paul 72
Oregon 86—Col. A&M 56
Oregon 75—Col. A&M 57
Prince. 88—Northwest. 65
Purdue 73—Prince. 61
St. Louis 86—Detroit 78
Stanford 54—Iowa 52
Stanford 65—Wis. 53
Washington 76—Iowa 71
Washington 54—Wis. 53
Wich. 69—Santa Clara 60

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PHOTOHY PESKINUPSTRETCHED HAND of Bill Russell is wall of flesh that stops shot of great Tom Heinsohn of Holy Cross. PHOTOHY PESKINWILD SHOT of teammate is grabbed by Russell and rammed down into basket for two points.

BASKETBALL'S TOP TEN

(Verdict of the Associated Press writers' poll)

Team standings this week (first-place votes in parentheses):

Points

1—San Francisco (113)

1,451

2—North Carolina State (22)

1,168

3—Dayton (14)

1,087

4—Vanderbilt

634

5—North Carolina

564

6—Kentucky

434

7—George Washington

416

8—Iowa State

315

9—Illinois

262

10—Ohio State

260

RUNNERS-UP: 11, Duke 242; 12, Memphis State (4) 201; 13, Indiana 188; 14, Holy Cross 173; 15, Tulsa 166.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)