The Hoosiers who live along the Wabash watershed in western Indiana are sore. From Tippecanoe County in the north, down through Attica and Montezuma, and especially at Terre Haute, they are telling themselves they have raised the best young basketball player in the country, and nobody has heard of him. His name is Terry Gilbert Dischinger, he's a junior at Purdue and, they say, he's every bit as good as that big fellow up at Ohio State—Jerry Lucas—that all the world keeps hearing about. Local pride notwithstanding, they have a point.
Like Lucas, Dischinger was one of last year's memorable sophomores. Also like Lucas, he was a Big Ten center, an All-America and a starting member of the U.S. Olympic basketball team. It was the epitome of unfortunate coincidence that two such superb players should develop in the same year, just as it was inevitable that one of them would have to be relatively unknown.
A week ago, on the night the Big Ten started its 14-game intraconference schedule, Terry Dischinger gave a routine display of those talents which cause as much excitement as the moonlight on the Wabash. He scored 41 points, making 15 baskets in 20 attempts and 11 of 11 free throws, gathered in 12 rebounds and all but singlehandedly dismembered Northwestern, 79-64.
Dischinger is 6 feet 6½ inches tall and weighs 190 pounds. By the Brobdingnagian standards of present-day basketball centers, he is small. Yet he plays as if he were smaller still, bringing something esthetically delightful to the game with his tiny, darting fakes, incredibly quick first steps, a jump shot that floats up to the basket as soft as cotton candy and a prescient sense of where to look for a rebound.
January 23, 1961
He works as hard when he doesn't have the ball as when he does, gliding with an unhurried rhythm up and down the floor, then hesitating in front of a defending opponent like a gently weaving cobra before a snake charmer. Suddenly, poof! He has vanished, and the ball is in the basket. "He doesn't run around you so much as he just disappears," a recent foe protested. "It is like trying to guard a ghost."
Purdue's unguardable ghost is in the flesh an intent, doe-eyed young gentleman from Terre Haute. The son of a high school teacher, he never got a mark below an A, graduating as top man in his high school class. He then moved up the Wabash to Lafayette to take chemical engineering at Purdue and become a one-man basketball team for Ray Eddy, Purdue's coach.
"Go ahead and score"
Last year he averaged 26.3 points a game. He led the Big Ten in scoring, though playing with a sophomore team so inexperienced that opponents could double- and triple-team him. He also was Purdue's best defensive player, and captured about 40% of the team's rebounds. He became the youngest member of the Olympic basketball team. His teammates called him Rookie, but he had a veteran's ability. Lucas, center on the Olympic squad, remembers Dischinger as "simply fantastic," adding, "I've never seen a better player." And Oscar Robertson, soon to star with the pros, ended one frustrating Olympic scrimmage in which he was trying to guard Dischinger by shouting, "Man, go ahead and score. Who cares!" as Terry faked him out for the nth time.
This season Dischinger is even better. Evansville put three men on him, but he scored 43 points. Notre Dame tried to collapse three men around him. Score after six minutes: Notre Dame 3, Dischinger 10.
In a game with Northwestern the other night, rival Coach Bill Rohr hoped to concede Dischinger 25 points but contain the rest of the relatively punchless Purdue team well enough to win. He tried a tall, slow man on Dischinger, then a couple of middle-sized men, finally a little, fast one—in vain. Dischinger romped around them all, making layups and hook shots with either hand, short jump shots and long set shots. He played his usual strong defensive game as well.
In the final two minutes, the partisan Purdue crowd screamed for Dischinger to shoot, to tie or perhaps break his own field house record of 43. Dischinger refused. "We had the game won," he said later. "I wasn't going to shoot no matter what. Basketball isn't a one-man game. I want people to remember me for my attitude, not the points I score."
The top teams in the Big Ten—Ohio State, Indiana, Iowa—know, however, that when the games get close Terry Dischinger will be shooting. With him, Purdue is likely to beat more than one of the conference leaders in the coming weeks. It is unlikely, but it could even happen this Saturday night at Columbus, where one of the most interesting personal duels of the year will take place. Purdue is playing Ohio State, and Olympian Jerry Lucas meets Olympian Terry Dischinger face to face.