Under West on the jumper, "Watch the arms, the form. This is perfect."
After a while R. H. Neumann packed up and moved his family to Memphis so they could see Bob play, but after a fine sophomore season in which he led his team to the NCAA regionals, Bob's future career in the sport was dashed by injuries and personal problems, and attention was turned to John. As the younger Neumann grew (to his present 6'6½"), his scoring average soared at Overton High School. He became the dominant player in the state, averaging 35.4 points a game during his last season before a broken hand felled him and wrecked his team's chances in the state tournament.
Despite the injury, college coaches came flocking. John Wooden visited his home and Adolph Rupp did the same, but Neumann's parents wanted him to stay near Memphis, and the boy wanted to be a star and to build up a program all by himself. At the time Memphis State played a slow game, so Johnny chose Mississippi, 90 miles down the highway at Oxford but, with only one winning basketball season in the past 10, seemingly light years away from the big time.
"I knew it was all football here," Neumann says today, "but I talked with Coach Jarvis and Archie Manning, and they said the people in Oxford wanted a good basketball team, finally. The Ole Miss cheerleaders even drove up to one of my high school games and said hello. Everyone seemed interested. They love their athletes at Ole Miss. That's all anybody has to do in this town is go to sporting events and make heroes out of their athletes. I took all the football interest as a challenge."
Former Ole Miss football coach Johnny Vaught, a legendary figure in the state, gave up "a hunting expedition" to drive up to Memphis for Neumann's signing in a show of solidarity among members of the athletic department.
It was not an easy first year, Neumann's reputation as something of an eccentric having preceded him to Oxford. Along the way to averaging 38.4 points a game for the freshmen, Neumann had several run-ins, including one with an Auburn coach who suggested Mississippi was a one-man team. Johnny proceeded to make seven straight shots around the perimeter and called out to the coach, "Is that good enough?" After the game he told the coach, "We may be a one-man team, but I can beat all five of yours by myself."
Off the court Neumann's behavior fit inconsistent patterns. In one stretch, he missed classes. He refused to study. He dated every night, staying out until all hours of the morning and frequently driving home to Memphis at the slightest whim. Finally, he skipped basketball practice and was suspended for a game. He went home again and said this time it was "for good." No one was surprised.
The trouble stemmed, it seems, from a high school girl friend of long standing who came to college with Neumann from Memphis. When both started dating others, Johnny couldn't handle it. Eventually, the emotional problem was alleviated, and Vaught and Jarvis brought their expatriate back to Oxford to live happily ever after at the top of the national scoring standings.
Johnny's marriage to Slick was an event of some spontaneity. Returning to Memphis last summer, he asked his younger brother, Bill, who "the sharpest chick in town" was. There followed considerable confusion over who was dating the "chick," Bill or Johnny Neumann, who, the young lady confessed, she didn't know from Johnny Appleseed. After that point was straightened out, Johnny dated her for two weeks and found love. They eloped. "We told my parents we were goin' to Oxford for an interview," says Slick.
"Yeah, George and Geri [Slick's parents] didn't know what was comin' off," says Neumann. "We left at 8:30 in the morning and drove through Alabama all day."