Return now to the Twilight Zone.... On a cold February night in 1951 in Lexington, Va., Jay Handlan, a & 6'2" forward at Washington & Lee, became the answer to the best basketball trivia question of all time: Who holds the NCAA record for the most field-goal attempts in one game? Somehow, someway, somewhere over the rainbow, as the Generals beat Furman 97-82, Handlan took 71 shots. By himself. That's 71. He made 30, missed 41 and scored 66 points. At LSU, Pete Maravich took 1,168 shots in a season and 3,166 in his career, but never 71 in a game. Moreover, Handlan's father was seen nowhere near the coach's seat. Handlan, who's president of an engineering firm in Philadelphia and owner of a house in New Jersey, claims that both his arms are still in their sockets. In addition, he insists he took only 64 shots that night, which, if it were true, would leave the record to Furman's Frank Selvy, who shot 66 times in his 100-point game against Newberry in 1954. But nobody's buying Handlan's number, certainly not the NCAA records people. "We weren't super formidable," says Handlan of his time at W&L. "I was the only scholarship player on the team. That night was sort of a planned situation. It was 'Let's see what I can get.' To be honest, I was tired at the half."
Alfredrick (The Great) Hughes of Loyola of Chicago isn't tired. He's working out with his Rambler teammates at a late-afternoon shooting practice on the road. On most teams this sort of thing is known merely as practice. But with Loyola, shooting practice is more precise. The Ramblers are working on their, ah, delay game. But guard Andre Battle keeps firing before he's supposed to. "Just because we give it to you doesn't mean you have to shoot," coach Gene Sullivan screams. Carl Golston, another guard, keeps dribbling into traffic. "Shoot it or move it. Shoot it or move it. Defense is nothing but offense when the other team's got the ball," assistant coach Doug Bruno shouts out. Then it's the Great's turn. And turn. And turn. Spinning, quadruple-pumping, dipsy-doodling, Hughes is attacked by three defenders—"one in back, one in front, one all over your head," Golston tells him later, rolling his eyes—yet still manages to get off the shot. Which is, after all, the point. The Loyola scheme. Not to mention Hughes's raison d'être. "The only way to develop good shooters is to let the shooters shoot," says Sullivan with the kind of simple logic that helps explain Loyola's somewhat mystifying success.
Last season, opponents outrebounded, outblocked and hit a higher percentage of their shots than Loyola, yet the Ramblers finished with a 20-9 record. So far this winter similar imbalances have appeared on Loyola's stat sheets at the same time it has been running and gunning to a 9-5 record. The Ramblers ramble into the victory column simply because they shoot more times than the other guys.
"Percentages don't mean that much," says Sullivan. "If I shoot 70 times and make 45 percent and you shoot 60 and make 50 percent, who wins? I do. And besides, we shoot it up there quick. We seldom have as many turnovers as the other teams. We just don't pass the ball very much."
Leading his team and, in all probability, the rest of the Western world in non-passing is the peripatetic Hughes, a 6'4½" senior forward who has the body of a Greek god and the instincts of a Gatling gun. If there were a Handlan trophy—and how better to commemorate our hero's legendary night in Virginia than with a statue of a man with one arm beckoning for the ball and the other arm falling off?—Hughes's career-long efforts would make him a landslide winner.
"Wait a minute, Rick never shot 71 times in a game," says Loyola sports information director Paul Mettewie. "His high was 34. St. Louis. His sophomore season. How many did he make? He made 13."
Ah, but for consistency....
As a freshman, Hughes was given, according to Sullivan, "free rein." Which is not to be confused with purple rain, however many Rambler fans' faces turned that color when they got a load of Hughes's sense of distance and direction. In that first year Hughes missed 13 of 17 shots in Loyola's one-point loss to Minnesota and followed that five games later with a stat-of-the-art effort against Bradley in which he missed 20 straight before finally stuffing a tomahawk jam on his final attempt of the evening. In the locker room afterward, as Battle apologized for missing but one of his nine shots, a chortling Hughes said, "You see me stick that last one?"
T shirts soon appeared all over campus emblazoned with the words SAVE LOYOLA BASKETBALL, SHOOT ALFREDRICK HUGHES. Buttons labeled him ALFREDBRICK. But Hughes kept firing—a lucky 711 shots as a sophomore and 655 last year when he got himself under control and passed off for an astounding 17 assists. Through last week Hughes had accumulated 17 30-point-plus games in his career, including a Rosemont Horizon record of 42 against DePaul in February 1984. This season Hughes has maintained his 22-shots-per-game career average while scoring 36 and 25 points, respectively, in road losses at LSU and Oklahoma—"He proved to us he's the best small forward in the country," said LSU coach Dale Brown—and then turning rebounder in upset victories over Illinois and Louisville. At week's end the Great was averaging 23.9 points and 10.2 rebounds a game. Moreover, if Hughes raises his rebounding pace a fraction he can finish his career with more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. Only 43 players in NCAA history have done that, and only three stood less than 6'5". One of them was Jerry West.
"Al's a complete player now," says Mettewie. Al? What happened to Rick? "Well, just don't call him Fred." Still, Hughes has never met a shot he couldn't get off. "They're not retiring this guy's number at Loyola," says NBA scout Marty Blake. "They're retiring his arm."