This is not really his game anymore, but it owes the man anyway. He is its living, breathing, upright history (and, at 82, upright is no small blessing), and thats worth something even if Clyde Lovellette stands amazed these days at how basketball has changed on him once and again and an infinite number of agains.
Theres guards my height now, marvels Lovellette, who was 6-foot-9 back when they hardly ever grew em that big.
This was in the 1940s and 1950s, when Lovellette was the tall drink of water who nearly won Terre Haute Garfield a state championship, then went on to greater things. He wound up at Kansas, where he won Phog Allen an NCAA title in 1952, and was the college player of the year after leading the nation in scoring his senior year.
Then he went off to Helsinki to help the U.S. win Olympic gold. Then it was off to the NBA, where he scored 11,947 points, won a title in Minneapolis and two more in Boston, and became something of a change agent himself, developing a one-handed set shot that unchained him from the low blocks and helped begin a progression that eventually led to all those big men he sees playing out on the floor today.
So maybe this is his game still, upon further review. Some people think so.
Come the end of the week, see, Lovellette will take himself and all that history down to New Orleans, where a couple of things will happen. Hell cheer on his alma mater in the Final Four and maybe spend some time with head coach Bill Self. And at some point in the weekend, hell be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
Its always nice to be voted into a Hall of Fame, says Lovellette, who lives in North Manchester now and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988.
And having it happen the same year Kansas is in New Orleans, too?
Thats the icing on the cake, Lovellette says.
Then he says he was scared for his Jayhawks against Purdue, and a little fretful for them in the North Carolina game, too, even if that one couldnt have turned out wrong no matter what. If Kansas won, well, its Kansas. And if North Carolina won, why, that meant Roy Williams would be going to New Orleans, and Williams is a good friend of mine.
So he was a winner either way. Pretty much always has been, as the first man ever to win college, Olympic and NBA titles.
These days he stays close to the game by watching a lot of high school and Manchester College hoops (Those kids really work hard, he says), and of course Indiana and Purdue. And though he played his own role in the games evolution, the evolution sometimes discomfits a man who coached the game at Whites Institute, and still sees it through a coachs eyes.
I really get mad when I see a big kid just rely on his height, Lovellette says. You cant just be 7 feet or 6-9, although lord knows it helps. I think youve gotta have more than your height.
This is as old school as it gets, of course. How could it not be, given who Lovellette is and what he means?
The mans a living timeline, truth be told, between a day when the NCAA tournament was on no ones radar and this day, when it owns the radar. How hes not already in the college Hall of Fame is one of lifes great mysteries.
This weekend, college basketball rectifies that.
Ill have a great time if they raise the trophy, says Lovellette, a Jayhawk forever. Ill have a great time, anyway.