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100 Seasons of Men’s Basketball

The return of the men’s basketball program to the national spotlight in the 2012-13 school year was the perfect prelude to the 100th season of the hoops program during the 2013-14 campaign.

THE EARLY YEARS

Even though basketball was listed as a collegiate sport at C-SC in the 1904-05 catalog, poor travel conditions and a lack of financial support from the College limited scheduling of most of the athletic programs on campus, according to George Lee’s “Culver-Stockton College: The First 130 Years.”

The first known results of the men’s basketball program are from the 1912-13 season and the Wildcats have sported a team every year since, except for 1924-25 and 1943-44 school years, compiling a 1,147-1,150 overall record through the 2012-13 season.

In the early years of the program, the Wildcats struggled on the hardwood, compiling 22 victories (57 losses) in the first 10 years of existence. After a series of short-lived coaches, Jess Lyle took over the program before the 1922 season and compiled a two-year record of 21-14, including the program’s first winning season, a 13-3 mark during the 1923-24 campaign.

After not fielding a team during the 1924-25 school year, Jay Kistler became the head coach and led the Wildcats to three winning seasons, compiling a 28-17 overall mark.

Herb Bunker took over as coach before the 1928-29 school year and brought stability to the program as the longest tenured coach to date, nine seasons, and winning the program’s first of seven Missouri Collegiate Athletic Union (MCAU) championships in 1934 with an 11-3 overall record and a perfect 9-0 mark in conference play.

Compiling a 62-73 overall record, Bunker gave way to Paul K. Scott during the 1937-38 season, generating a 7-13 overall record in his only season at the helm. The legendary William A. Herington was hired away from Trenton Junior College in the spring of 1938, beginning the Golden Era of Wildcat basketball.

MR. WILDCAT

Herington had an immediate impact on the Wildcat basketball program. Already a successful coach at the junior college level where he led Trenton to three conference championships in his 11 seasons as coach, Herington took the reins of the C-SC basketball program and promptly led the Wildcats to their first National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national tournament in Kansas City during his first season, finishing with a school-record 16 victories (against seven losses).

Herington’s teams would go on to set the school record for victories two more times, posting 17 victories in 1942 and 18 victories in 1946. The 1951, 1959 and 1960 teams matched the school record for victories with 18, which was the standard until the 1972 team won 21 games. The 1947 team finished 17-2 and still holds the school mark for highest winning percentage of .895.

Overall, Herington led the Wildcats to the national tournament five times (1939, 1941, 1946, 1947 and 1959), compiling a 3-5 mark against the best the NAIA had to offer. In addition, Herington’s teams captured six MCAU titles (1941, 1946, 1947, 1959, 1963 and 1965), compiled 19 winning seasons and an overall record of 356-248. Sadly Herington passed away in his sleep Nov. 25, 1965, in midst of his 27th season on “the Hill.” Thirteen of his 26 teams won at least 16 games in a season when the Wildcats averaged 23 games per season. He finished with a career .589 winning percentage, which is currently the second-best in school history behind Rod Walton’s .597 winning percentage from 1983-90. 

   Herington was highly honored by his fellow coaches during his tenure at C-SC. He served as president of the NAIA, as well as the MCAU coaches association in 1955 and chairman of NAIA District 16 from 1945-47. In addition, he served on various NAIA and MCAU committees, and was named to the NAIA Hall of Fame

in 1956.

Hired in 1938, Herington served the College for 27 years as coach, administrator and educator. He served as the head of the physical education department from 1941 until his death. According to his obituary in the Megaphone, Herington was “a stern taskmasker on the basketball floor who would do anything for his boys when their playing days were over.” His honesty, integrity and sincerity have had a lasting effect on the hundreds of players he had coached.

THE NATIONAL TOURNAMENT YEARS

As stated earlier, Herington led the Wildcat cagers to five national tournament appearances, including his first team during the 1938-39 season.

Herington’s first national tournament team was unexpected. The Wildcats won a combined 18 games in the three seasons leading up to Herington taking over the program in 1938. During that first season, the Wildcats got off to a modest start and stood at 6-4 after 10 games before running off 10 victories in their final 12 games to finish the regular season with a 16-6 overall mark and in third place in the MCAU with an 8-4 mark.

To everyone’s surprise, the Wildcats earned a trip to the NAIA national tournament. Led by junior guard Larry Hoff, the Wildcats opened tournament play with a 53-40 victory over Winona State University. Hoff scored 21 of the 53 points to lead C-SC to its first-ever tournament victory.

In their next game against Northwest Missouri State University, Hoff was saddled with foul trouble and eventually fouled out of his first game of the year, finishing with just two points, as the Wildcats were upended  30-24.

Hoff became the first Wildcat to be named to the All-MCAU team since 1934, earning first team honors for his efforts on the court. Freshman center Art Hendren was also recognized for his play during his inaugural season by being named to the All-MCAU team as an honorable mention selection.

After missing the tournament in 1940, the Wildcats returned to national prominence during the 1940-41 campaign when the cagers captured their first MCAU championship since 1934.

Led by Hendren, Elgie Posey and Dale Love, all C-SC athletic hall of fame honorees, the Wildcats posted a program best 11-1 league record to win the title outright. Coupled with football’s MCAU title that fall, the 1940-41 school year was the only time the Wildcats have held both a football and basketball conference championship in the same season.

At the national tournament, the Wildcats began with a 40-26 victory over Texas School of Mines, with 11 points from Hendren. C-SC led from start to finish over the Miners, who entered the game with a 20-6 overall record. The next day, C-SC saw its hopes dashed as San Diego State, the tournament’s eventual champion, defeated the Wildcat quintet 46-41 in overtime to end C-SC’s season at 16-5 overall. Jim Wilson led the way with 12 points, while Hendren added 10 markers. Hendren and Dale Love were chosen for the All-MCAU first team while Elgie Posey earned second team honors.

C-SC missed the national tournament in 1942 and 1943 despite going a combined 29-13 and finishing second in the league each year. The 1943-44 season was cancelled due to the war effort and the Wildcats played a limited schedule in 1944-45 as the men of the nation returned from the war.

Aided by returning veterans from World War II, the 1945-46 Wildcats returned to the national spotlight by posting a school-record 18 victories in 22 tries and shared the MCAU title, the third conference championship under Herington.

The Wildcats opened that season with nine victories in their first 10 games and finished strong by winning eight of their last 10, to end the regular season with a 17-3 mark.

At the national tournament, the Wildcats again won their opening game by defeating Wichita State 55-51, as Jim Jacobs scored 16 points and Verdie Altizer and Paul Hoff netted 12 and 10 points, respectively. The next day, C-SC couldn’t defend a 40-35 lead late in the game and was eliminated by Dakota Wesleyan 41-40. Hoff led the way with 10 points, while Althizer added eight markers.

Seven members of the team were honored by the MCAU with senior Harold Kottman earning first team honors.

C-SC qualified for the national tournament for the fourth time in seven seasons during the 1946-47 campaign, winning its second straight MCAU championship and ending the regular season with a 17-1 overall record with the only loss being to Washington University in St. Louis.

Unfortunately, the trip to Kansas City was a short one as the Wildcats lost in their tournament opener 51-48 to Eastern Washington University. The Wildcats led 21-19 at halftime and extended the lead to eight points at the start of the second half, but a 12-0 run by Eastern Washington overcame the deficit and the Wildcats never recovered.

The .895 winning percentage (17-2) is still a school record. Three players earned All-MCAU honors from that team with George DeClair and Bob Wilson earning first team honors.

After being a regular participant at the national tournament in the 40s, the Wildcat program was average during the next 12 seasons. C-SC finished with a winning record in just six of 12 the seasons that followed their final national tournament appearance in 1947.

The Wildcats finally returned to the national tournament during the 1958-59 season when they captured their fifth MCAU championship with a 10-2 league mark. Playing a best-of-3 series with William Jewell for the national tournament berth, the Wildcats defeated the Cardinals 70-65 in Liberty. However, Jewell returned the favor by beating the Wildcats 65-56 in Canton to set up a winner-take-all game at L.L. Culver Gym. C-SC was victorious in that final game, defeating the Cardinals 76-66 to earn the national tournament bid.

C-SC drew Farleigh Dickinson of New Jersey in the first round and trailed 41-19 at halftime. However, a determined Wildcat team gave its large rooting section something to cheer about in the second half, out-scoring the opponents 47-36 in the second 20 minutes before falling 77-66 to end the campaign with an 18-9 overall record. Andy Balazs and Ken Shuler led the Wildcats that season, averaging 16 and 15.9 points, respectively.

The Wildcats would win two more MCAU championships (1962-63 and 1964-65) but would not qualify for the national tournament until the 2013 team earned an at-large bid 54 years later.

Finishing with four victories in 28 games the previous season, Coach Jack Schrader overhauled the entire roster and set for a re-birth of the basketball program that had been mediocre at best for nearly 20 years.

The Wildcats set a school record for victories with 26 (against nine losses) and placed second in the Heart of America Athletic Conference, earning an automatic bid to the national tournament.

Appearing in the tournament for the first time in 54 years, the Wildcats showed they belonged by scoring 63 second half points in overcoming a two-point halftime deficit and defeating Lewis-Clark (Idaho) in their first game. The high-powered offense appeared again in game two as C-SC defeated the defending national champion Concordia (Calif.) 97-85. Again the Wildcats came from behind and netted 57 second half points to earn the victory.

Winning two games at the national tournament for the first time in history, the Wildcats set out to reach the national semifinals with a victory over Georgetown (Ky.). C-SC started quickly and led 52-37 at halftime. However, the Tigers wore down the much smaller Wildcats in the second half and claimed an 86-82 decision, ending the Wildcats’ season.

Marshawn Norris, the HAAC Player of the Year, was named to the all-tournament team for his outstanding play during the tournament. Norris averaged 22 points, 6.7 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 3.1 steals per game during the tournament. He was also named to the NAIA All-America second team later that week.

THE PROGRAM

The Culver-Stockton College men’s basketball program has produced some great players throughout its history. Twenty-two individuals who either played or coached in the basketball program are enshrined in the C-SC Athletic Hall of Fame. In fact, each generation of basketball fans could present an argument of who was the best to ever wear the Wildcat uniform.

Fans of the late- 30s and early 40s could argue that Dale Love was one of the best to wear the uniform. Love, a 1942 graduate played on two national tournament teams and was the first Wildcat to receive All-America status as an honorable mention selection in 1942.

In the mid 40s, Harold Kottman set a school record for points in a game with 31, a mark that stood for nearly 10 years. Kottman went on to play with the Boston Celtics for a season.

Dave Marr, class of 1958, was the first player to score 1,000 points in a career, finishing his career with 1,752 career points. He held the school record for 22 year before John Ernst ’80 came along and set the new standard when he broke Marr’s record in a loss to Southwest Baptist in January 1980. Ernst is the current record-holder with 2,022 career points, holding that mark for 33 years and counting.

Speaking of scorer’s, Marr also held the individual game record of 37 points until Gary Ulrich broke the mark with a 40-point performance against Graceland during the 1964-65 season. In fact, Marr set the individual record three different times during his career after breaking Kottman’s mark of 31.

Ulrich’s mark stayed that way until Jay Moore poured in 41 points against Missouri Valley toward the end of the 1966-67 campaign. Moore’s record stood for seven seasons until a football player turned basketball star broke the mark at the end of the 1973-74 season.

Ira Toran came to Culver-Stockton as a walk-on football player who was a part-time starter his freshman season. He sat out the 1973 football season when he decided to play basketball for Coach Jim Dudley. All Toran did his first season with the Wildcats was set a new single-game scoring mark with 46 points against Missouri Baptist on Feb. 26, 1974. He also became the second player in school history to score 600 points in a season, joining Tony Robertson who had done it twice. In addition to his scoring, Toran also grabbed on average 13.9 rebounds per game. Toran completed his career with 1,541 points, which currently is sixth overall, and 768 career rebounds, which stands seventh overall.

In the early 70s, Jeff Stollberg and Frank Guiterrez were the mainstays of the Wildcat team that set the school record for most victories of 21 during the 1971-72 season. Stollberg, who transferred in after his freshman season at Augustana, finished his three-year career with 1,168 career points, while Guiterrez totaled 1,273 career points and 855 career rebounds.

John Ernst currently holds the career scoring mark of 2,022, set from 1976-80. He also holds single season and career records for points scored and field goals made and attempted. Never one to drive the lane, Ernst was a pure shooter who likely would have scored over 3,000 points in today’s current game where the 3-point line is so prevalent.

No one has challenged Ernst’s scoring mark in the 33 –plus year since his graduation. Brad Eaton, class of 1989, who netted 1,696 points in his career, came closest and is currently third on the school’s all-time list. Mark Heaton ’92 with the help of the 3-point shot tallied 1,549 career points and is currently fifth on the all-time list. In today’s game, an individual would have to average 16.9 points per game over a four-year period to break the mark. It is a mark that may stand for a long while