OHIO VALLEY BASKETBALL.
With March Madness taking over the sports scene, what better time to talk hoops?
It's rather easy for a casual observer to know the names of the roundball stars who are widely recognized, and honored, for their athletic exploits.
But what about the players who have recorded outstanding careers and not received their just due in the overall scheme of things?
There are numerous basketball standouts who may be recognized by their own schools but deserve more far-reaching accolades. These are ones who fit into the "underrated" category.
So, without further ado, here's our 10 Most Underrated Basketball Players in Ohio Valley history, listed in no particular order:
(1) JIM JORDAN, Chester High and University of North Carolina and University of Kentucky: Captain of the 1943 All-W.Va. high school team, he went on to play with four college conference title teams in five seasons, including Mt. St. Marys under the Navy V-12 program. He played two seasons at UNC and earned All-America honors for the 1946 NCAA finalist team. He transferred to UK and played for the 1947 NIT winner and the 1948 NCAA champion.
(2) ANDY TONKOVICH, Benwood Union High and Marshall College: After helping Marshall win the 1946 NAIB national title, and earn All-America honors, he became the No. 1 overall selection in the 1948 NBA Draft by Providence. He later played, and coached, with the Wheeling Blues pro team.
(3) JAY HANDLAN, Triadelphia High and Washington & Lee: After an "average" high school career, he blossomed by becoming just the third major college player to score more than 2,000 career points and was the nation's leading free-throw shooter in 1951. He scored 66 points against Furman that year and took 73 shots, still the NCAA record. He was the nation's second leading scorer at 26.2 per game.
(4) JIM McCORMICK, Magnolia High and West Virginia University: The Blue Eagles' top roundball product, he started all four WVU seasons - and was the second-leading scorer to All-America backcourt mate ROD THORN each year, including an unbeaten freshman team. He was drafted by the old NBA Cincinnati Royals.
(5) RON GODFREY, Martins Ferry High and University of Miami:
He broke famed ALEX GROZA's high school season scoring mark with 718 in 1956 and ended with 1,338 career points while twice scoring 51 in a game. At Miami, he scored 1,334 points and was selected with national Hall of Famer RICK BARRY on an all-time Hurricane squad. He also coached Miami from 1968-71.
(6) JIM WOOD, Steubenville Central and Georgia Tech:
He led the Crusaders to their best-ever season (22-2) in 1973 before starring at Tech, where he led the team in scoring three straight seasons. A relentless rebounder, he played 12 pro seasons overseas.
(7) HARRY (MOO) MOORE, Moundsville High and WVU: A four-year prep start who scored more than 1,700 points, he went on to start for the Mountaineers and set school free-throw shooting records. He was drafted by the NBA.
(8) EDDIE BECKER, Wheeling High and WVU: An all-state selection on the unbeaten 1950 W.Va. title team, he scored more than 1,100 points for the Mountaineers, second best at the school at the time.
(9) BOB BOWEN, Martins Ferry and Ohio State: After helping the Purple Riders win an Ohio state title, he went on to start three seasons for the Buckeyes, including two teams that finished third in the NCAA Tournament.
(10) BOB O'BRIEN, Benwood Union High and University of Maryland: After an all-state prep season, he started for the Terps three years and led them in scoring as a senior. He then played pro ball in the Baltimore area.
(1) I was sorry to learn of the recent death of a former Intelligencer sports department associate. Cancer claimed JEFF GILLESPIE, 44, in Georgia where he had been a newspaper sports editor the last several years. His family plans a mass at 6 p.m. next Thursday at the chapel of Mary & Joseph at Wheeling Jesuit, the alma mater of Jeff and wife LINDA. A social gathering will follow.
(2) West Virginia basketball recruit PAT FORSYTHE suffered a broken ankle in an Ohio sectional tournament. The Brunswick senior averaged 22.3 points, 12.2 rebounds and 6.3 blocked shots a game.
(3) Former WVU quarterback PAT WHITE has retired from baseball after not reporting for the Kansas City Royals' Instructional League. White, who was drafted by the New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds. and Los Angeles Angels, had signed with the Royals after being released by the NFL Miami Dolphins last fall.
(4) Enjoy the wintry weekend.