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On Feb. 13, 1954, a steady downpour didn't prevent a crowd of more than 4,000 from filling Textile Hall at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. The Furman Paladins, a Southern Conference powerhouse that had beaten teams from the more celebrated ACC, were playing little, nearby Newberry College. Yet the game was being televised by a Greenville TV station—the first live telecast of a college basketball game in South Carolina's history—because of the public's intense interest in Frank Selvy, a Furman senior.
The 6'3" Selvy, a native of Corbin, Ky., had gone to Furman because Kentucky's Adolph Rupp and Western Kentucky's E.A. Diddle turned him down. Rupp's rejection was particularly hurtful because Selvy had grown up dreaming of playing for the Wildcats, who won NCAA titles in 1948 and '49. Yet Rupp refused him a scholarship, convinced that Selvy, at 6 feet and 150 pounds, was too frail to play for Kentucky.
The summer after his graduation from high school, Selvy grew three inches and was named MVP in a Kentucky East-West all-star game. Rupp changed his mind. By then, however, Selvy had committed himself to play for coach Lyles Alley at Furman, a small Baptist school. "I liked Coach Alley," Selvy says. "He came up and talked to my mother. Plus there were two or three guys from Corbin High who came along with me."
During Selvy's three-year varsity career at Furman, the school beat Duke, South Carolina, Georgia and Georgia Tech. Yet it was Selvy's scoring that brought national attention to the Paladins. He averaged 24.6 points per game as a sophomore and 29.5 the next year. As a junior he once ran up 63 points in a game against Mercer College. But that was only a prelude to his senior year, when he led the nation with a 41.7 average, a record that stood until Pete Maravich averaged 43.8 as a sophomore at Louisiana State during 1967-68.
On the night of the Furman-Newberry game, the crowd included hundreds of fans who had traveled in a motorcade from Corbin. "That was the first college game my mother saw me play," Selvy says. It also turned out to be the one in which Alley gave Selvy a chance to make history.
Selvy began firing from the opening tip, and it took less than three minutes for Bobby Bailey, the Newberry player assigned to guard him, to foul out. At the end of the first quarter Selvy had 24 points. And despite being double-and triple-teamed on every trip up the floor, Selvy added 13 points in the second quarter for a halftime total of 37. In the third quarter, as his teammates ceaselessly fed him the ball and Newberry obliged by continuing to play a running game, Selvy ran his total to 63.
He was even hotter in the fourth quarter, and at last, with 30 seconds remaining in the game, Selvy had 94 points. In a flash he added two baskets. Then with two seconds left he fired a 40-footer from just be-ore half-court.
Swish. It was the only time in NCAA Division I history that a player scored 100 points in a single game. And Selvy could have had more. "I'll say that I made at least eight or nine baskets that would have been three-pointers today," he says. "Plus they didn't have the one-and-one in those days." The final box score showed that Selvy had made 41 field goals—still an NCAA record—in 66 attempts.
Selvy played 10 seasons in the NBA. As a rookie with Milwaukee in 1954-55, he averaged 19 points, second on the Hawks to Bob Pettit's 20.4. But perhaps his biggest claim to fame is that he was the Los Angeles Laker who almost toppled the mighty Boston Celtics in the 1962 championship series.
With the two teams tied at three games apiece, Selvy scored two baskets in the final seconds of Game 7 at Boston Garden to pull the Lakers into a tie. He then got the chance to win the game, but his 16-foot jumper at the buzzer sailed off the rim. The Celtics won in overtime, 110-107.