player in collegiate basketball hurried head and shoulders above the crowd
through the halls of Gonzaga University in Spokane last week and ducked into
the office of his French-speaking academic adviser to resume a debate on the
Rabelais-Montaigne influence on the era of Francis Bacon.
Lefebvre (pronounced Luh-fay-vra) of France, who is 7 feet 3� inches tall and
knows little English, has performed so well in this literary scrimmage that his
campus stature is assured whether or not he ever dunks a basket.
knowledge and appreciation of literature," said the learned dean of
faculties, the Rev. Clement H. Regimbal, S.J., "is quite extraordinary for
a freshman student."
extraordinary is Lefebvre's two-year evolution from the awkward, shy and sickly
son of a farmer on the outskirts of Paris to the poised biggest-man-on-campus
of a U.S. college.
His arrival in
Spokane on Labor Day this year may well have given birth to a new dimension in
basketball recruiting and brought an end to isolationist thinking among
Actually, it all
began one spring day in 1955 when Lefebvre's 6-foot 6-inch father (his mother
is 6 feet 3) sent him to a doctor in Paris for treatment of a sore knee.
diagnosed the ailment as minor but, before he released his patient, he put in a
telephone call to an old friend, Robert Busnel, who was coach of the French
National Basketball team. Busnel hurried over, gazed fondly at Lefebvre's
tremendous size and asked simply: "Would you like to play basketball?"
He got a simple answer: "Yes."
Busnel worked for
hours every day with his giant, who had to learn the game from the ground up.
He found in Lefebvre a pupil so willing he fell exhausted after practice but
came back for more. His feet, bound tightly in shoes too small, were bloodied
and covered with blisters.
fell in love with the game, he wasn't the valued asset he might have been.
Busnel took him aside each day, begged him to play close to the basket and use
his height. Then Lefebvre gave him his problem.
"You do not
know, Monsieur, what it is to be too tall, do you?"