The Southland Conference, as part of its year-long 50th Anniversary commemoration, has announced its All-Decade Men’s Basketball Team from the 1960s. The team includes stars from its member institutions from the league’s inaugural 1963-64 season through 1968-69.
A total of 10 student-athletes makeup the 1960s All-Decade Team, two players from each of the five institutions that made up the membership during that period.
“It’s great to recognize a group of players and coaches that really put the Southland Conference on the basketball map in its formative years,” league commissioner Tom Burnett said. “When you go back through the annals of the conference, it’s very obvious these were tremendous players that enjoyed success at all levels.”
In addition to the selection of the 10 all-decade players, one of the picks, Larry Jeffries (1965-69) of Trinity University, was selected as the Player of the Decade after he became the first four-time all-Southland choice, a two-time Southland Conference Player of the Year, and a three-time All-American. Jeffries also led the Tigers to the Southland’s first-ever berth in the 1969 NCAA University Division (Division I) Tournament.
The 1968-69 Southland Conference Basketball Records Book referred to Jeffries as Trinity’s “nonpareil,” or having no equal. The Alton, Ill., native also led Trinity to a third-place national finish in the NCAA College Division Tournament, and still ranks in the Southland’s top 10 in five statistical categories.
Joining Jefferies on the all-1960s team was another two-time Southland Player of the Year, Jerry Rook (1963-65), of Arkansas State, and Rook’s ASU teammate John Dickson (1963-67), another Southland Player of the Year. Lamar is represented on the all-1960s squad with standout forward Don Bryson (1963-65) and sharpshooting guard Earl Dow (1967-69), while Abilene Christian’s John Ray Godfrey (1964-68) and Charles Cleek (1964-66) were also tabbed for the team. Trinity’s Pete Ranucci (1963-65) also earned all-decade recognition, as did Texas-Arlington’s Mike Nau (1964-67) and Eddie Stallings (1967-69).
The Co-Head Coaches of the Decade honor was shared between Abilene Christian’s Dee Nutt and Lamar’s Jack Martin. Nutt led ACU to three Southland championships and three NCAA Regionals during the decade, while Martin’s Lamar team won the inaugural 1964 league title, advanced to a pair of NCAA Regionals, and led the nation’s No. 1 ranked College Division Team in 1969.
A complete summary of all honorees begins on the next page. The Southland Conference will continue to recognize All-Decade Teams through the 2000s during the remainder of the 2012-13 basketball season.
Southland Conference 1960s All-Decade Men’s Basketball Team:
Jerry Rook, 6-5, Forward, Arkansas State (1963-65)
A native of Jonesboro, Ark., Rook played his final two seasons for Arkansas State when the Indians joined the Southland Conference. He was named the first Southland Conference Player of the Year in his junior season in 1964 after averaging 25 points per game, and followed that with an encore season as a senior with 23 points per game on the way to repeating his player of the year honor. He scored 35 or more points in a dozen games, including a 39-point effort as a senior in a conference game against Lamar. Rook finished his collegiate career as the holder of many Arkansas State records, and his school-best 2,153 career points still ranks seventh highest all-time in the Southland Conference. After being the first ASU player drafted by the NBA (Baltimore Bullets in 1965), Rook played one season with the ABA’s New Orleans Buccaneers. Rook later became a successful high school coach in Arkansas, leading Pine Bluff High to two state championships. In 2009, he was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Don Bryson, 6-6, Forward, Lamar (1962-63, 1963-64, 1964-65)
A New Orleans native, Bryson won three letters at Lamar from 1962-65, capped by an outstanding senior season in 1964-65 when he was named a third-team Associated Press (AP) All-America, becoming the first Lamar player to earn All-America honors. After earning second-team all-Southland honors as a junior, he was named first-team all-Southland in 1964-65. He averaged 23.2 points and 14.9 rebounds per game his final season and helped Lamar post an 18-6 record. His scoring average that season still ranks as the third best in school history and the rebounding average ranks second in school and third in Southland history. He posted career averages of 16.5 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, and he still ranks among the all-time leaders in school history in several categories. Bryson scored 30 or more points in a game six times, including a career-high 36 points against Abilene Christian in 1965. He also grabbed 20 or more rebounds in a game five times with a career-best 26 against Southern Miss in 1965. He is the school’s all-time leader with three games in which he scored 20 or more points and grabbed 20 or more rebounds. Bryson helped Lamar post a 59-17 (.776) record during his three-year career, including a 19-6 record in 1963-64 as Lamar won the inaugural Southland championship and placed third at the NCAA College Division tournament.
John Ray Godfrey, 6-3, Guard, Abilene Christian (1964-65, 1965-66, 1966-67, 1967-68)
A native of Aspermont, Texas, John Ray Godfrey is one of the greatest all-around players in school history, and is still the Wildcats’ only first-team NCAA All-America basketball player. Godfrey, who led the 1966 Wildcats to the NCAA Division II national tournament, earned that honor in 1968 after averaging 23.8 points and five rebounds per game. A 1989 inductee into the ACU Sports Hall of Fame, Godfrey held the Moody Coliseum single-game scoring record with 41 points until Hunter Cooley scored 42 against Angelo State on Feb. 6, 1992. Godfrey, who ranks 10th on ACU’s all-time scoring list with 1,467 points, played on three Southland Conference championship teams. He was unanimous all-Southland three times and was the league’s most valuable player in 1967-68. He was named to All-America teams by the Associated Press, U.S. Basketball Coaches Association and United Press International, and he was invited to the 1968 U.S. Olympic trials.
Larry Jeffries, 6-3, Forward, Trinity (1965-66, 1966-67, 1967-68, 1968-69)
A native of Alton, Ill., Larry Jeffries was not only a three-time All-American from 1967-1969, he was also the first-ever four-time All-Southland Conference selection while leading the Trinity Tigers. Jeffries, who led the 1969 Trinity team to the Southland’s first-ever berth in the NCAA University Division Basketball Tournament, remains the institution’s all-time leading scorer, with 2,454 points, a 25.3 point-per-game average. In 1967 and 1969, Jeffries also was the Southland Conference Player of the Year. His still-standing single-season school records include the top-three scoring totals (813 points being the most), the top two field goals made (320, 239), the top field goal attempts (616), the top three free throws made (173 as the most), and all top four free throw attempts records (232 as the most). Among Jeffries’ career school records are the most points (2,454), second-most rebounds (1,013), most field goals made (922) and attempted (1,727), and most free throws made (598) and attempted (814). He was drafted by Denver of the American Basketball Association in 1969 and played with the Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association during the 1969-70 season. Jeffries earned the Bachelor of Science in health and physical education from Trinity in 1969, and was inducted into the university’s hall of fame in 1999.
Pete Ranucci, 6-1, Guard, Trinity (1963-64, 1964-65)
A native of Worcester, Mass., and a transfer from Miami (Fla.), Pete Ranucci earned All-Southland Conference honors during the league’s inaugural season of 1963-64. He averaged 22.6 points per game that season, second best in the Southland, and followed that with a 21.4 average in 1964-65, which ws fourth best in the league. He set numerous Southland records that stood for many years, even though the Trinity struggled as a team early in its conference tenure. Since his successful playing career, Ranucci has been a college basketball official for more than 40 years, calling games in the Southland, Southwest, Big 12 and Pac-10 for many years. He officiated NAIA national championship games in 1986, 1987 and 1988, and still officiates games in Division II.
Charles Cleek, 6-6, Forward, Abilene Christian (1962-63, 1963-64, 1964-65, 1965-66)
A native of Las Cruces, N.M., and a four-year starter for the Wildcats (1962-66), Cleek is one of the best big men in ACU history. He led the Wildcats to back-to-back Southland Conference championships (1964-65 and 1965-66), earning first team all-conference honors both seasons after earning second team honors as a sophomore in 1963-64. As a senior in 1965-66, Cleek was the leader of one of the great teams in ACU history, a squad that won the Southland Conference title and won the NCAA regional championship before losing to North Dakota, 63-62, in the national tournament. Cleek was selected a third team All-America by both the Associated Press and United Press International after averaging 17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds for a team that finished 21-7. Among those 21 wins was a 67-52 win at Oklahoma State (then Oklahoma A&M). Cleek still ranks ninth on ACU’s all-time scoring list with 1,504 points and fifth on the all-time rebounding list with 899 career rebounds.
John Dickson, 6-11, Center, Arkansas State (1963-64, 1964-65, 1965-66, 1966-67)
A native of Jonesboro, Ark., John Dickson proved to be one of the greatest players at his hometown university, Arkansas State, with a superlative career. An all-Southland Conference selection in his final three seasons at ASU, Dickson was chosen as the Southland Player of the Year, and was named to the AP College Division All-American Team in 1965-66, and was an NABC All-America pick in 1966-67. He holds the Arkansas State record points in a game with 47 against both Tennessee-Chattanooga and Texas-Arlington during the 1966-67 season. He earned AP All-America status in both 1967 and 1966 and was an NABC All-America pick in 1967. Dickson led the Southland in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage as a senior while leading the Indians to the NCAA Southwest Regional. Still ranked among the all-time career leaders in several statistical categories at ASU, Dickson ranks second in both points scored and rebounds with 1,891 and 1,139, respectively. Drafted in the third round by the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, Dickson was also drafted by the New Orleans Buccaneers of the ABA, and he play one season with the Bucs. Dickson was inducted into the Arkansas State Hall of Honor in 1984.
Earl Dow, 6-1, Guard, Lamar (1967-68, 1968-69)
A native of Bayside, N.Y., Dow became Lamar’s second All-America selection, earning third-team national honors as a senior in 1968-69, when he set then school season records of 560 total points and a 23.3 scoring average while leading the Cardinals to a 20-4 mark. Dow saved his best for the biggest games, as he scored 31 points against Memphis State, 28 against Texas A&M, 23 in a landmark win over Houston, 25 against Tulsa, 28 and 30 against Texas-Pan American, and 32 in his collegiate finale against Abilene Christian. In addition to making the All-Southland Conference team, he earned third-team All-America recognition and played as a teammate of UCLA’s famed Lew Alcindor in the East-West All-Star Game. Dow and his teammates’ efforts were lauded in the Feb. 3, 1969, edition of Sports Illustrated, and the team not only rose to No. 1 in the College Division poll, it was also ranked among the nation’s best teams in the UPI major college poll.
Mike Nau, 6-8, Center, Texas-Arlington (1964-67)
A native of Dallas, Mike Nau proved to be an outstanding force for the team then known as the Arlington State College “Rebels.” Twice named All-Southland in 1965-66 and 1966-67, Nau was a top scorer and rebounder, scoring more than 30 points six times, and grabbing more than 20 rebounds twice. Despite playing only three years at UTA after transferring from Iowa State, Nau finished his career as the school’s all-time scoring leader. He averaged 16.2 points in three seasons, surpassing the 1,000-point threshold during his tenure. Today, his 1,052 points rank 11th on the career scoring chart, and he is fourth on the school’s all-time rebounding list with 628. Nau also recorded 21 “double-double” scoring and rebounding games during his career. In 1967, Nau scored 38 points against Lamar, which is the sixth most points scored in a game by a Mavericks player. He was inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Honor in 2002.
Eddie Stallings, 6-3, Forward, Texas-Arlington (1967-69)
A native of Dallas, Stallings averaged 20.6 points during a two-year career from 1967-69. He was named All-Southland Conference both years after setting a school record with 30 or more points 10 times. He has the second-highest two-year scoring total in school history with 1,007 points in 49 career games. He still has the sixth-highest single-season point total in school history in 525 in the 1967-68 season. His 21.0 scoring average in 1968-69 still ranks fourth in school history for average in a season. He scored a career-high 37 points against Texas Wesleyan in 1968 and that is still the seventh-highest single game total in school history. He was a first-team All-Southland Conference selection in each of his seasons. Stallings was inducted into the school’s Hall of Honor in 1997.
1960s All-Decade Co-Head Coaches:
Dee Nutt, Abilene Christian
A native of Clifton, Ariz., and a former All-American player for the Wildcats, Dee Nutt led Abilene Christian to 208 wins as head coach from 1955-56 through 1968-69, and during a brief return from 1988-90. During the concentrated six-year period of Southland Conference play in the 1960s, Nutt led the Wildcats to 83 wins, including a 31-17 mark in league games, three Southland Championships in 1964-65, 1965-66 and 1967-68, and three NCAA regionals in 1964, 1965 and 1966. The 1966 NCAA team won the South Central Regional and earned a berth in the national quarterfinals. Nutt was selected as the 1968 Southland Coach of the Year. He later coached the Mexican National Team in the 1971 Pan Am Games and the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
Jack Martin, Lamar
Jack Martin joined the Lamar athletic department in 1951 as the university was transitioning to four-year status to lead the Cardinals basketball program into the Lone Star Conference. He became the longest-serving head coach in Lamar’s history before retiring in 1976. When Lamar later joined the Southland Conference in 1963, Martin immediately led his team to the first Southland championship and a berth in 1964 NCAA College Division Tournament. The Cardinals also advanced to the 1966 NCAA Regionals, but a highlight for Lamar during its early Southland tenure was a remarkable 1968-69 season that saw the team reach unprecedented exposure. Not only did the Cardinals reach No. 1 in the College Division rankings, they also became the only team to also be ranked (as high as No. 18) in the UPI’s University Division poll after high-profile wins against Pepperdine, Memphis State, Texas A&M, Tulsa and Houston on the way to a 15-game win streak and a final 20-4 record. Martin was the Southland Coach of the Year in 1969 and 1970.