If you ask oldtimers, who is the best basketball player to come out of Minden, La., the answer is likely to be Jackie Moreland. But a younger group will say Louis Dunbar. Tough choice.
Moreland, a 6-foot-7 center/forward who led Minden High School to a 1955 state championship, was so dominant in high school that he was described as "a man among boys." He was the subject of a huge recruiting battle which ultimately left several schools with NCAA penalties.
|Jackie Moreland |
at Louisiana Tech
He was Tech's best-ever player, certainly as a big man, until Mike Green reset the record books in the early 1970s,
How good was Moreland? Yes, he played in an all-white world in high school and college, but he proved he could last in the NBA. He was the No. 1 draft pick of the Detroit Pistons in 1960, the fourth pick overall.
Here's what he did that Dunbar didn't: He played eight years of real pro basketball -- five with the Pistons and, after a year out of the game, three with the New Orleans Buccaneers of the new American Basketball Association.
The NBA and ABA weren't as integrated as they would become, but there were a lot fewer pro teams then -- eight in the NBA in Jackie's rookie season -- and only 12 roster spots, so it was an elite league.
Moreland was a good pro, especially popular in the ABA in his home state. He retired after the 1969-70 season and became a project engineer on the Superdome being built in New Orleans. Sadly, only a year later, pancreatic cancer quickly took Jackie at age 33.
He was a Minden/Louisiana Tech legend, and I never saw him play except with the Pistons on TV in the early 1960s. But I knew how good a player he was -- I was told many times by Minden and Tech people -- almost everyone said he was a wonderful person.
|Sweet Lou: Globetrotters' "clown prince"|
I mentioned in a previous blog that I always wondered how it was he didn't play in the NBA; there were rumors he wasn't a fit for the Philadelphia 76ers, who drafted him in the fourth round in 1975. He was their fifth pick; their first two were Darryl Dawkins and World B. Free -- both significant NBA stars-to-be.
So the word was that Dunbar could not come to terms with the Sixers. Maybe they didn't offer enough money; maybe he wanted too much. Anyway, he wound up going to play in Switzerland, played for the European League champions, and came back to a Houston Rockets summer-league team and tryout camp.
It was there the Globetrotters scouted him, loved his game and thought he would fit well with them. The rest you know; it's 39 years later, and he's a Trotters' Legend.
He's traveled the world many times over, met a Pope and several U.S. Presidents and other world leaders, and he's had them -- and so many fans -- laughing. And it's been a personal joy, too.
Louis summed up his career well in an interview with Larry Guest of the Orlando Sentinel in 1998.
"When you mention names like Goose Tatum and Meadowlark Lemon and Geese Ausbie, you're talking about the cream of the crop," he said. "To think you're doing some of the routines they did, it's really something special. You just try to go out and do your best knowing and hoping that one day people will say, 'Hey, Lou Dunbar did that.'
"When you become a showman, you have to bring something to the party."
Dunbar is not in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. I think he should be soon. The team he's been with hasn't lost a game in 37 years.
Yes, Lou Dunbar did bring something to the party, and fans loved him. Going back to Webster High and Minden, he always had a fan here.