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Jeremiah Tax
December 17, 1956
The Kansas Jayhawks, with Wilt Chamberlain, are basketball's rulers presumptive, as Wildcats, Bulldogs, Owls and others claw for runner-up
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December 17, 1956

Animal Kingdom Of The Cage

The Kansas Jayhawks, with Wilt Chamberlain, are basketball's rulers presumptive, as Wildcats, Bulldogs, Owls and others claw for runner-up

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The university of Kansas campus comprises for the most part a singularly unimpressive hodgepodge of local limestone and brick; Sigma Chi's white-porticoed fraternity house is perhaps the structure most pleasant to look upon. These days, however, Kansans only have eyes for another—human—variety of architecture: Wilton Chamberlain, a 7-foot sophomore who strides the Jayhawk campus like a Gulliver among the Lilliputians and bestrides the national collegiate basketball scene like a colossus.

Kansas and Chamberlain began their assault on the record books in a season's opener against Northwestern, a team with a better-than-even chance of winning the Big Ten title. It was ho contest. Kansas won, breezing, 87-69, Chamberlain setting a new Big Seven record with 52 points, grabbing 31 rebounds and setting off a shock wave of jitters in all directions that is bound to reach and affect all future Kansas opponents. Chamberlain is no Fancy Dan, though it appears he could be if he chose because he has speed, grace and spring in abundance. He simply takes the ball in the pivot, jumps and turns, stretches out an elastic frame and unbelievably long arms in mid-air and dunks it. Scout Fred Wegner, whose Wisconsin team plays Kansas next week, put it this way: "It's bad enough when he stuffs that ball in the basket, but when he rolls it in downhill, he just breaks your heart." Before the NCAA playoffs next March, rival coaches will have tried all manner of strategy to stop Chamberlain. One reason its seems unlikely that anything will work is the fact that the rest of the Kansas team is so good; any opponent that concentrates on Chamberlain will be caught flat-footed by an offense run by Guard Maurice King who, aside from his tall teammate, may be the best player in the Big Seven. Off their first few games, the rest of the conference should finish in this order: Kansas State, attacking around 6-foot-9 pivotman Jack Parr; Iowa State, sparked by little (5 feet 10) Gary Thompson; Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado and Nebraska.


There is, of course, an Ivy League, which makes it easy to determine the best among the eight teams since they play each other. But most of the others here are independents who freelance around the country. Conceding this obstacle to comparative estimates, early-season choices to achieve national ranking are Seton Hall, Temple, St. John's, in that order. Each has an All-America hopeful: Dick Gaines ( Seton Hall), Guy Rodgers (Temple) and Dick Duckett (St. John's). All are relatively small but extremely adept as ball handlers, and all helped as their teams took the early games—Seton Hall 87, Toronto 52; Temple 62, Gettysburg 39; St. John's 96, King's Point 48.

St. Joseph's of Philadelphia, Niagara and Canisius should follow the top three. St. Joseph's has won three straight, Niagara has won two out of three (losing, in overtime, to Toledo), Canisius has won four straight.

Among the Ivies, Yale's red-haired, dead-eye Johnny Lee has a new helpmate in a sophomore redhead, Larry Downs. Between them they've scored 124 points in three games, combined to swamp Amherst in their opener 76-55. Competition for the Ivy title will come from Columbia, whose Chet Forte (only 5 feet 9) will also give Lee a run for league scoring honors, and defending champion Dartmouth with a full squad of veterans.


An indication of basketball's great appeal here is the fact that Big Ten games will be telecast on a regular basis by a 35-station Sports Network extending from Ohio to Minnesota and sponsored by Standard Oil of Indiana. The screen should show Dick Mast's set shots and Joe Rucklick's lovely soft hooks outscoring most league opponents and raising Northwestern from last place (in 1955-56) to first this season.

Illinois, with spectacled George BonSalle (6 feet 8), and Minnesota, whose Jed Dommeyer is the best jump-shooter in the conference, make the Big Ten a three-way battle. Michigan has little chance for ranking but may have the nation's only two-sport All-America in Ron Kramer, the football end, who plays center and led the team in scoring last season with a 20.3 average. Ohio State has already run over Butler (98-82) and Pittsburgh (100-69) and appears the only worthy candidate for dark-horse mention.

Independents are powers here, too, with Dayton and Xavier outstanding and Notre Dame well equipped to give Irish fans something to cheer about after a lamentable football season. They've swamped St. Joseph's ( Ind.) 98-55, with all their starters scoring 10 points or more and the veteran John Smyth getting 29. Xavier's little (5 feet 7) honor student, Jimmy Boothe, has led them to two easy victories; he is out to break his own remarkable record of 462 points set last season. Despite a tough schedule, St. Louis should go through the Missouri Valley like Sherman through Georgia. Thus far, in two non-conference games, they've beaten Cincinnati 91-73 and lost to Ohio State 74-54. If serious opposition does develop in the Valley, it undoubtedly will come from Oklahoma A&M, which has now won three out of four, the defeat at the hands of Pacific powerhouse Washington.

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