In light of this weekend’s celebration of America’s independence, and all the good vibes surrounding the Indiana University Men’s Basketball program, I could think of no better time to revisit the All-Americans that Indiana Basketball has had over the years.
In this two-part series, we are going to do exactly that. For the sake of the size and scope of the work, I am only going to include first and second-team players in this series. We will catch up with some of the other players who distinguished themselves nationally down the road.
What better time to revisit Indiana Basketball’s First and Second Team All-Americans than the long Fourth of July Weekend!
The guy atop the list is the incomparable, Don Schlundt. Schlundt is Indiana’s only 3 time All-American, earning Second-Team honors in 1953, and ’55, and First Team honors in 1954. The 6-foot-10 Schlundt led the Hoosiers to the National Championship in 1953.
During his stellar career, Schlundt averaged 23.3 points per game, setting what, at that time, was the Indiana scoring record of 2,192 points, on 46% field goal shooting and 77% free throw shooting. His scoring record would stand until 1987 when another Indiana All-American would break it. (I bet you can’t guess who that was. Ha!)
Don Schlundt made what would today seem to be a strange decision, when upon graduation from IU, he decided to forgo a professional playing career, opting instead to begin his career in business. The NBA wasn’t what it is today, and may have been a much easier lifestyle to turn down at that time. Unless you really enjoyed long bus rides.
Scott May comes first of the three in chronological order, winning a spot on the All-American team in both 1975 and 1976. In that time Indiana went 63-1, going undefeated in 1976 at 32-0 and claiming the National Title. That was the last team men’s college basketball to accomplish that feat.
The 1974-75 Hoosiers lost only once, in the 1975 NCAA Tournament, after the team lost the aforementioned Scott May to a broken arm before the NCAA Tournament began. Indiana lost a heartbreaker in their Elite Eight matchup with Kentucky, 92-90, despite 33 points and 23 rebounds from the next guy on our list.
For his career, May averaged 17.7 points on 51% shooting from the field and 77% from the free-throw line. He became the number 2 pick in the NBA Draft after his stellar senior season at IU.
Many basketball historians and fans, including players who were on both teams, swear to this day that the ’75 team was better–deeper and more complete than the ’76 team. That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?! They were crushing their opponents before May’s injury.
Next on the list of two-time winners is Kent Benson. Benson paired with front-court mate, Scott May, on the 1976 All-American team, and then followed that up with another All-American performance in his senior season in 1977. Benson was selected as the 1976 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, which was a huge honor on a team of that caliber. Benson went on to be a number 1 pick in the 1977 NBA draft, and he played in the league for 11 seasons.
The third guy on our two-time winner list is the one and only, Steve Alford. Alford won the All-American honors in both his junior and senior seasons. His senior season culminating in the 1987 NCAA Championship, Steve Alford became Indiana’s all-time leading scorer with 2,438 career points. That’s a distinction he held for just a few years before Calbert Cheaney came along and rewrote the Indiana and Big Ten record book.
Alford was drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft in 1987, the 26th overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks. Alford played four seasons in the NBA with Dallas and Golden State. He then immediately went into coaching, becoming the head coach a Division III Manchester University in 1991. His coaching career was only just beginning, with stops at Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico, UCLA, before his current job coaching the Nevada Wolfpack.
In 1921 one Hoosier broke through and earned the title of Indiana’s first All-American. His name was Everett Dean.
The distinctions don’t end with Dean’s title as Indiana’s first All-American. Dean was also a standout baseball player during his time at IU. He would go on to coach both the Indiana basketball and baseball teams from 1925-1938, and in 1942 Dean would coach the Stanford Cardinal basketball program to a National Championship.
Up next is the man that Simon Skodt Assembly Hall’s court is named after, one Branch McCracken. The Indiana legend earned First Team honors in 1930. McCracken’s accomplishments at Indiana are almost too much to list. At 6-foot-four, 200lbs Branch was capable of playing center, forward, and guard. His coach, Everett Dean, credits McCracken as a pioneer in post play.
“Once, when slowed by injuries, he planted himself near the free throw line, back to the basket, from there passing off to players cutting by him or keeping the ball and rolling to the basket himself. “Once we saw what he could do, we let him go,” Dean said. “He was one of the first college centers who played the pivot the way it’s played today.” [Branch McCracken – Wikipedia]
After his playing days, McCracken became the head coach of Ball State from 1930-1938 leading the Cardinal to a 93-41 record. Eventually, McCracken was chosen to become the head coach at his Alma Mater, where he would coach the Hurryin’ Hoosiers from 1938–1943 and 1946–1965. During his time as the Hoosier headman, he compiled a 364–174 and won the NCAA Championship in 1940 and 1953. In 1940, McCracken became the youngest coach to win the NCAA title and the tender age of 31.
Just in case you wonder, the gap between 1943 and 1946, McCracken was busy doing something that even further adds to his legend, as he left Indiana to serve as a lieutenant in the United States Navy during WWII. (Now your just showing off, Branch. Ha!)
I have thought in the past that the court in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall should be renamed for Coach Knight, but after reacquainting myself with Branch McCracken’s exploits at Indiana as both a player and coach, I’m sorry but I just can’t imagine ever actually doing that.
So there you have it, that is part one of our look at some of Indiana’s great All-American players.
Watch for Part Two tomorrow! Hopefully, it will pass a few minutes of your drudgery as you return back to work after your long weekend. One can only hope!
God Bless America! And God Bless the Indiana Hoosiers!