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Alexander Wolff
November 20, 1989
From 1971 to 1984, no major college scoring champ made the grade in the NBA
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November 20, 1989

The Lost Generation

From 1971 to 1984, no major college scoring champ made the grade in the NBA

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Nearly two years later, one-on-one is still all Rogers plays. "That way, no one can double-team me," he says. He's on edge, a man tailed by his own paranoid fantasies. For the past five years he has lived in St. Louis with his mother, Fannie Mae, who must have once been so proud of her son. Rogers was named scholar-athlete of Sumner High School's class of 1971. He earned his degree at Pan American and went on to teach history and math briefly at two St. Louis high schools. He even returned to Edinburg, Texas, to take graduate courses at Pan Am after his short time with the Golden State Warriors in 1977. Then "they" turned "the machine" on him. Messed with his mind.

It's a facile and formidable mind, but hopelessly preoccupied with the past. "My highest scoring game was 58," he says. "School record, against Texas Lutheran. Broke the record of Bruce King, 55 against Baptist College." He recounts it all instantly and precisely: How he started out at Kansas in 1971, spending two seasons there until his wild style bucked up against coach Ted Owens's system. How he read somewhere about Abe Lemons, Pan Am's wry coach, and wrote Lemons, who was only too happy to plug him into the Broncs' up-tempo offense. How he scored 36.8 a game in 1976, winning the scoring title easily. "It wouldn't be fair to set picks for him," Lemons said at the time. "He might score a hundred a game."

Now he needs a screen desperately. Hospitalized briefly for mental illness in 1985, Rogers refused to take the medication a doctor prescribed for him. Recently he studied counseling for a stretch at a small college in Missouri, but he ran into trouble again and was asked to leave. Matthew Hill, a former forward at Sumner High, often sees Rogers shooting hoops at Walnut Park. "He's always wearing the whole Golden State uniform," Hill says. "The shorts. The jersey. The warmup. Even the shoes, the kind they don't sell no more."

Sometimes Hill or a friend will play Rogers into the evening. "We'll want to play to 15, by ones. He'll want to play to 50. He's so good that if you don't get your hand up in his face, he'll make 25 in a row. Endurancewise, he doesn't have it. But shootingwise, he's the best in the state of Missouri. We feel sad for him. We wonder, Oh, man, what happened?"

Tonight in his mother's den the game is blitz dominoes. Rogers's eyes dart around the end pieces, toting up the score. You can't possibly add so fast; no one can. Yet Rogers does, and he's impatient when, on your turn, you can't match his pace. Why should he suffer a fool?

"Domino," he says. He wins easily, scoring 165. Another big game for Marshall Rogers.

"The kids keep coming," Rabbit says to himself. "they keep crowding you up." As they're crowded up, can this mislaid dozen scoring champions fail to sense the mortality they share? Pistol Pete is gone, victim of a heart that surrendered in a pickup game when he tried to reach down and touch the tautness.

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