by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor, and TGS Staff


STANLEY JOHNSON, 6-6 Fr., Arizona
KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS, 7-0 Fr., Kentucky
JAHLIL OKAFOR, 7-0 Fr., Duke
D’ANGELO RUSSELL, 6-5 Fr., Ohio State
MELO TRIMBLE, 6-2 Fr., Maryland

NEWCOMERS OF THE YEAR: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky & Jahlil Okafor, Duke...Several years ago, after we went through a spate of “shared” awards in our Superlatives issue (this year’s version in Issue No. 38, available April 6), we vowed to avoid doing so again unless special situations warrant.

Well, we think we’ve come to one of those special situations involving our top Newcomer pick for 2015. For if NBA scouts are mostly divided upon whether Kentucky’s Towns or Duke’s Okafor would be the first overall pick in the upcoming draft (should each declare, which most believe is a fait accompli), then we might as well split our top Newcomer vote, too.

Both turned the college basketball world inside-out this season. Though each was surrounded by prime talent, it was easy to note the special qualities of each. At this stage, Okafor is a more refined offensive force; indeed, many are already comparing Okafor to Tim Duncan, and note how the Dookie frosh’s ball-handling skills, rare for a big man, remind so much of the “Big Fundamental” himself. Towns, however, emerged as the nation’s most intimidating defensive presence, and it is illuminating that many NBA scouts, for much of the season reportedly having Okafor clearly at the top of any potential draft board for this coming June, began to change their minds and rate Towns as the most likely top pick.

Because of the wealth of size and talent on the Kentucky roster, Towns’ individual stats have been somewhat suppressed, at least in comparison to Okafor. And while the loaded Wildcat roster has hindered Towns somewhat in the stat regard, it has allowed him to play a bit more unhindered when on the floor. Whatever. We expect both Okafor and Towns make immediate impact on the next level and will be featured on many NBA All-Star teams in the years to come.

In the bigger picture, as we look back at our Newcomer teams from long ago, we can’t help but recall the days when those honored would almost always finish their full college eligibility before turning pro. Of course, from the mid 1950s thru 1972, freshmen were ineligible for varsity competition, an idea being kicked around at the moment by the Big Ten (there’s more to that tale which we be reviewing in some depth at the beginning of next football season). From last year’s TGS All-Newcomer team, only Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison did not immediately opt for the NBA after last season. We would not be surprised if all six members of our 2015 team right away go the NBA route.

Following is another TGS tradition, our additional “newcomer” teams divided by region for the just-completed campaign, followed by our all-time list of “newcomer” teams dating back to the 1956-57 season, when our first such team featured a couple of guys you might have heard of before...Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain.


TREVON BLUEITT, 6-5 Fr., Xavier
BEN BENTIL, 6-8 Fr., Providence
ISAAC COPELAND, 6-9 Fr., Georgetown
ISAIAH WHITEHEAD, 6-4 Fr., Seton Hall
DUANE WILSON, 6-2 Fr., Marquette
MILES WRIGHT, 6-2 Fr., Dartmouth


ERIC PASCHALL, 6-6 Fr., Fordham
MILIK YARBROUGH, 6-6 Fr., Saint Louis
SHEVON THOMPSON, 6-11 Jr., George Mason
ELIJAH BRYANT, 6-4 Fr., Elon
KORY HOLDEN, 6-2 Fr., Delaware


JUSTIN JACKSON, 6-8 Fr., North Carolina
JAHLIL OKAFOR, 7-0 Fr., Duke
XAVIER RATHAN-MAYES, 6-4 Fr., Florida State
DeSEAN MURRAY, 6-5 Fr., Presbyterian
TYUS JONES, 6-1 Fr., Duke


CHARLES JACKSON, 6-10 Jr., Tennessee Tech
TRAE ANDERSON, 6-4 Jr., Eastern Illinois
WESLEY PERSON, JR. 6-3 Fr., Troy
B.J. TYSON, 6-3 Fr., East Carolina


TREY LYLES, 6-10 Fr., Kentucky
KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS, 7-0 Fr., Kentucky
DEVIN BOOKER, 6-5 Fr., Kentucky
RILEY LaCHANCE, 6-2 Fr., Vanderbilt
DEVIN SIBLEY, 6-2 Fr., Furman
TYLER ULIS, 5-9 Fr., Kentucky


SEAN SELLERS, 6-6 Fr., Ball State
ISAAC HAAS, 7-2 Fr., Purdue
D’ANGELO RUSSELL, 6-5 Fr., Ohio State
BRYANT McINTOSH, 6-3 Fr., Northwestern
JAMES BLACKMON, JR. 6-2 Fr., Indiana
MELO TRIMBLE, 6-2 Fr., Maryland


PARIS BASS, 6-7 Fr., Detroit
MONTEL JAMES, 6-7 Jr., Loyola-Chicago
DeVAUGHN AKOON-PURCELL, 6-5 Jr., Illinois State
BRENTON SCOTT, 6-1 Fr., Indiana State
REED TIMMER, 6-1 Fr., Drake
TEVONN WALKER, 6-1 Fr., Valparaiso


KELLY OUBRE, 6-7 Fr., Kansas
JAMEEL McKAY, 6-9 Jr., Iowa State
MYLES TURNER, 6-11 Fr., Texas
TORIN DORN, 6-4 Fr., Charlotte
JEVON CARTER, 6-2 Fr., West Virginia


MALIK POPE, 6-8 Fr., San Diego State
DAVID COLLETTE, 6-8 Fr., Utah State
JAMES WEBB III, 6-8 Soph, Boise State
TYRON CRISWELL, 6-4 Jr., Nevada
BOGDAN BLIZNYUK, 6-2 Fr., Eastern Washington


STANLEY JOHNSON, 6-6 Fr., Arizona
PASCAL SIAKAM, 6-9 Fr., New Mexico State
JAKOB POELTL, 7-0 Fr., Utah
GARY PAYTON II, 6-3 Jr., Oregon State
JORDAN McLAUGHLIN, 6-1 Fr., Southern Cal


MATT HUBBARD, 6-9 Fr., Santa Clara
DOMANTAS SABONIS, 6-10 Fr., Gonzaga
DEVIN WATSON, 6-1 Fr., San Francisco


1. 1956-57—Chamberlain-Baylor combination would be tuff one to beat.
2. 1967-68—Tremendous backcourt firepower, five legitimate NBA stars.
3. 1962-63—Super forwards Barry, Bradley & Cunningham make potent.
4. 1981-82—Jordan & Ewing make this team tough at both ends of court.
5. 1977-78—Magic, Ainge & V. Johnson played on eight NBA title teams.
6. 1959-60—Lucas, Walker & Dischinger spearheaded powerful frontline.
7. 1966-67—Alcindor dominated; Beard & Mix both future NBA All-Stars.


In the early days in the mid-’90s of Classic Sports Network (before it would be annexed by ESPN), the colorful Al Trautwig would host his own interview show, and on one of those airings, the featured guest was Wilt Chamberlain. (We’re glad we got to see Wilt a few more times on Classic Sports before he passed a bit prematurely in 1999 at the age of 63.)

Wilt was a most accommodating guest, enjoying Trautwig and the line of questioning, expanding upon answers when needed. Including a particular question posed by Trautwig, who asked the “Big Dipper” to name his all-time, all-opponent team. Wilt responded without much hesitation.

“(Jerry) West and Oscar (Robertson) at the guards,” Wilt told Trautwig. “Russ (Bill Russell) at center. Forwards, Bob Pettit and Rick Barry.”

None of those greats mentioned by Wilt needed any further validation to us. We suspect some folks, however, might be a bit surprised to hear Barry mentioned among Chamberlain’s all-time top five opponents.

Trust us, Barry belonged. He was one of the most explosive scorers in hoop annals, a 6-7 whirling dervish with unlimited shooting range and an uncanny ability to handle the ball. (Later in his career, Barry, a flashy passer as well, would become one of the NBA’s top assist men.) He still ranks as one of the all-time best FT shooters in hoops history; indeed, at 90% from the charity stripe in his NBA career, he ranks behind only Steve Nash and Mark Price on the all-time list. In retrospect, we are also not alone slightly preferring Barry to Larry Bird; their careers would briefly bisect in the 1979-80 season, when Rick was finishing his run as a pro hoopster with the Houston Rockets.

Unlike Bird, however, Barry was controversial, and was an irritant to opponents and fans because of his playing style, which was more than a bit selfish. Not to mention his demeanor. To call Barry “testy” would not be inaccurate, but “hothead” might be a better description.

Still, we think it is a bit sad that Barry and many stalwarts from his era have mostly been forgotten by the modern hoops audience. If there is a generation of great hoopsters mostly overlooked by the sports media of today, it includes a group of star players who burst upon the scene before the advent of ESPN and the explosion of cable television. The further away from the creation of ESPN, the further out of the conscience, it seems, in regard to the modern-day fans.

:Counted in that group would be nearly all of our 1962-63 TGS All-Newcomer team, which we have long regarded as one of the best of our 58-season publishing history. Barry, then a soph at the University of Miami (Florida), was a headliner on the team that also included Princeton’s Bill Bradley, North Carolina’s Billy Cunningham, Wyoming’s Flynn Robinson, and Michigan’s Bill Buntin. The combo of Barry, Bradley, and Cunningham was arguably the best collection of scoring forwards in TGS Newcomer history. Each enjoyed decorated Hall of Fame careers. Robinson also had an eight-year pro stint and was a member of the great 1971-72 Lakers championship side that won a then-record 69 games. Buntin was the key frontliner on a pair of Wolverine Final Four teams and played for a season in the NBA with the Pistons before sadly passing prematurely at the age of 26 in 1968.

All also came into a pro basketball world that had only nine teams, as the NBA would not expand to ten teams until 1966-67, when the Bulls were added. The following season marked the birth of the ABA...which was an important marker in any storyline regarding Barry.

Barry burst upon the scene in college at Miami, where he was a star almost from the outset, concluding his career as a consensus All-American and leading the country in scoring as a senior with a staggering 37.4 ppg.

But Barry was not quite an instant star at Miami, as say a Lew Alcindor would be at UCLA a few years later. He was a transplant to Florida, having hailed from New Jersey, and, as Barry noted in a long-ago interview, Miami sounded like a nice place to spend a college career and not have to worry about shoveling snow in the winter.

The famous Barry temper was evident from his earliest days at Miami. Often compared to Duke’s abrasive Art Heyman (another star player of the era) by rival coaches, it was a contest to see if "The Miami Greyhound" Barry could outdo the notoriously hair-trigger Heyman. After scoring 35 points in a game against San Francisco, Barry would try to throttle a Dons player for what he thought was an indiscreet elbow. He went careening into the first row atop Florida’s Dick Tomlinson in a game at Gainesville. In the NIT against Providence his last year he threw the ball into the stands when charged with a foul just when Miami had cut a huge Providence lead to two points. The result was a technical foul, the ball was given to the Friars, and quickly the lead shot up seven points, extinguishing Miami’s chances. Such instances would follow Barry throughout at least the first half of his pro career; a more-mellow Barry would still whine and complain until his retirement, but the days of fisticuffs had mostly ended by the mid-‘70s.

As mentioned earlier, Barry’s career with the Hurricane varsity started off a bit slow, with only 11 points in his first two games. But by his third game, Barry served notice, scoring 27 against Rhode Island, and would proceed to tally an eye-opening 28.8 ppg in his varsity debut season.

Barry was the star of the greatest era for Miami basketball, leading the Canes to records of 23-5, 20-7 and 22-4, the only three consecutive 20-win seasons in school history. Miami claimed the school’s first post-season victory with a win over St. Francis in the 1963 NIT. The Canes won the Pittsburgh Steel Bowl Classic and took two of three Hurricane Basketball Classics, with Barry being named Most Valuable Player twice, and Miami would participate in the NIT his first two seasons, making four straight postseason appearances.

Barry set career marks at Miami that have never been approached, and likely never will be threatened by any Cane. He scored 2,298 points in his career, averaging 29.8 points in his 77 games. He had 61 games of 20 points or more, and in his senior season, he had games of 59, 55, 54, 51, and 50, plus five other games in the 40’s! He holds the school’s top eight single-game scoring totals, as well as 15 single-game, season or career records, including most points and most rebounds. Indeed, we have rarely seen a school’s hoops record book as dominated by one player.

(Five years after Barry departed Coral Gables, the Canes would drop their basketball program, and would not resurrect it until the mid-‘80s).

Moreover, Barry’s college sweetheart Pam was the daughter of Cane head coach Bruce Hale. Barry would subsequently marry Pam, and the Hale connection would also be key in the early years of Barry’s pro career (more on that in a moment).

Barry remains the only basketball player in history to win scoring titles in the NCAA, ABA, and NBA. He was an instant star in the NBA, taken as the second overall pick in the 1965 draft by the then-called San Francisco Warriors. Almost immediately upon Barry’s arrival, he made a huge impact with his flashy style and electric on-court presence. An almost-unanimous pick as the ‘66 NBA Rookie of the Year, Barry paced a Warriors’ resurgence from a 17-63 record the year before his arrival, as San Francisco would improve 18 wins (to 35) the following season. By Barry’s second term, he was a full-blown sensation, leading the NBA in scoring at 35.6 ppg and being the catalyst for a Warriors team that would advance all of the way to the NBA Finals, where San Francisco would battle Wilt and the Philadelphia 76ers, that season a wrecking machine and a then-NBA all-time best 68-13. The underdog Warriors traded punches with the favored Sixers, and had a chance to force a deciding seventh game in Philly, leading Wilt & Co. into the 4th Q, before the Sixers squeezed out a 125-122 win at the Cow Palace. Barry, however, was an acknowledged superstar, scoring 40.8 ppg in the championship series, and 44 alone in Game Six.

That, however, would be the last time Barry would wear a Warriors uniform for more than five years. Rick’s father-in-law Bruce Hale had been hired as coach by the new Oakland Oaks of the ABA, and, along with Oaks co-owner Pat Boone (yes, that Pat Boone), convinced Barry to jump leagues to the fledgling operation. But the Warriors and their owner Franklin Mieuli objected and took Barry to court, claiming that Barry was contracted for 1967-68 with the Warriors, and if Rick didn’t play for Mieuli, he couldn’t play anywhere. The courts agreed; basketball’s most electrifying player would sit out the 1967-68 season, barred from playing for the Oaks until the following year, working instead on a handful of Oaks radio broadcasts.

In the superb ABA retrospective, Loose Balls, authored by Terry Pluto and reviewed on these pages last year, Barry explained his jump to the new league.

“When Bruce (Hale) was hired by the Oaks, it naturally got my attention,” said Barry. “The idea of playing for him again had so much appeal. I loved playing for Bruce in college.

“The money was a factor, but not an overwhelming one. My contract with the Warriors was up, or at least I was led to believe it was. I was tied to Warriors for another year by the “reserve clause,” a clause that said every player had to play an extra year for his team after his contract was up. But it was never challenged in court. And the lawyers I talked to didn’t think it would hold up. So when the Oaks called, I was willing to listen, because I thought I could change leagues without missing a year.”

The negative court ruling, however, meant that Barry couldn’t suit up for the Oaks until the 1968-69 season campaign, which began a four-season sojourn in which Barry would end as the league’s all-time points per game scoring leader at 30.9 ppg. But it was a grueling handful of years, with a couple of serious knee injuries that knocked Barry out of the second halves of the 1968-69 and 1969-70 seasons. His father-in-law Hale had relinquished coaching duties with the Oaks after their brutal finish in the 1967-68 non-Barry debut season, kicked upstairs as GM, but Barry’s former coach with the Warriors during Rick’s rookie season, Alex Hannum, who would also coach the Wilt Sixers title team of 1966-67, returned to the Bay Area as coach of the Oaks. Oakland had also added ABA stars Larry Brown (yes that Larry Brown!) and Doug Moe and was the class of the league, and looked untouchable with Barry on the floor, but Barry would blow out a knee halfway into the season and sit out the remainder of the campaign, and the Oaks would win the ABA with Barry on the sidelines.

The franchise, however, was on weak financial underpinnings, and Boone and co-owner Ken Davidson would sell out to Earl Foreman, who planned to move the team to Washington, D.C. For a while, Barry (who also thought he owned 15% of the Oakland franchise, but didn’t receive a dime for the sale), believed he was off the hook with the ABA, and that his deal stipulated he was only bound if the team stayed in the Bay Area, and he was ready to return to the Warriors for 1969-70, but Foreman went to court to enforce Barry’s ABA contract. Forced to stay in the ABA and fulfill his contract, Barry moved to Washington, D.C., where the Oaks were christened the Caps the following year, but Barry would again blow out a knee in the second half of the season.

Foreman was in big financial trouble, however, and was going to move the franchise to Virginia, where the team would play regionally and be re-christened yet again, then called the Squires. Barry, however, did not want to go, famously saying he didn’t want his kids growing up with a “southern accent.” Foreman would thus sell Barry to the New York Nets, where Rick played for two more years before the courts, again, had to get involved, paving his return to the NBA and the Warriors on the eve of the 1972-73 season.

By this time, Barry had lost some of his speed and explosiveness due to the knee injuries, but retained a considerable offensive arsenal and plenty of moxie, and would be named to several more NBA All-Star teams in the ‘70s. His greatest pro achievement, however, would come with the 1974-75 Warriors, which we described in detail in a feature editorial a year ago when reviewing the extraordinary Holy Toledo book about former Warriors announcer Bill King, written by his Oakland A's broadcast partner Ken Korach.

That Golden State team had emerged not quite out of nowhere, finishing at 44-38 (and barely out of the playoffs) in the previous 1973-74 campaign, but was hardly considered an NBA title threat entering the 1974-75 season, either. There were several detours for that team, featuring Rick Barry, as well. Including some deep financial woes being experienced by owner Mieuli that forced GM Dick Vertlieb (another colorful character of the era) into some creative bookkeeping just to keep the franchise afloat. Such as an at-the-time very controversial trade of longtime great C Nate Thurmond (who dated to the Chamberlain era in the early 60s) to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for a less-decorated center, the 6’9 Clifford Ray. It was not a traditional basketball deal; Vertlieb was also trying to balance the books, and saved a cool $500,000 by moving Thurmond while also picking up future draft choices (one of which was used for La Salle’s Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, the father of you know who).

Korach described that season partly from recollections passed along by King, who compared the Warriors’ defensive play that year to the great Cal teams coached by Pete Newell. Largely responsible would be assistant Bud Presley, a longtime junior college coach but who was targeted by then-head coach Al Attles as a defensive mastermind who could impart those fundamentals to the team. The fact that Barry and the rest bought into Presley’s defensive mindset was crucial in the Warriors (rechristened as “Golden State” in 1971) ascent up the NBA ladder in 1974-75. The trade for the defense-minded Ray, who shared pivot duties with shot-swatter deluxe George Johnson, would also pay dividends; by that stage of his career, Thurmond, though once a great defensive presence, was too slowed by knee problems to impact games great use of his bench that season, with ten or more Warriors often seeing action on any given night.

The tale of the 1974-75 Warriors is riveting stuff, including a punishing seven-game Western Conference final vs. Dick Motta’s rugged Bulls. Down 3 games to 2 and headed to Chicago for Game Six, the Warriors played lockdown defense to score an 86-72 win and force a dramatic Game 7, back at Oakland. With CBS on hand for a rare midweek nationally-televised game, and a young Brent Musburger and recently-retired Oscar Robertson providing the descriptions, the Warriors used their defense to make up a double-digit deficit and hold the Bulls to just 32 points in the second half. That 83-79 win would set up the final round vs. the heavily-favored Washington Bullets, featuring Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, and Phil Chenier.

Oddly, however, the Oakland Coliseum was booked for an ice show during the finals, so the Warriors were going to be forced to play their home games vs. the Bullets back across San Francisco Bay in their old Cow Palace. Schedule conflicts also made it impossible for the normal 2-2-1-1-1 homecourt venue rotation. The Bullets had homecourt edge, but were offered a choice; a 1-2-2-1-1 with Game One at home, but not returning home until Game Four, or a 1-3-2-1 with Game One at the Warriors and Games 2-4 at their home Cap Center. Washington took the former option, and immediately began to regret it when the Warriors made up another double-digit deficit in Game One to steal a 101-95 verdict and head back to the Cow Palace for two games, up 1-0 in the series.

The battles were all thrill-packed, especially Game Two, when Golden State was nursing a 92-91 lead in the final seconds when the Bullets had last possession and a couple of shots to win the game; Korach includes King’s commentary of misses by Mike Riordan and Hayes that preserved the Warriors’ 1-point win. (Editor’s note: you can also check out this sequence on YouTube, with the Musburger-Robertson call from the actual CBS telecast). After a 109-101 win in Game Three, Attles’ team returned to Landover in hopes of wrapping up the series in an improbable sweep.

Korach spared little description of Game Four, including King’s commentary of Riordan’s roughhouse (no, make that cheap shot) tactics on Barry that prompted Attles to charge the court and get tossed from the game. With assistant Joe Roberts then in charge, the Warriors would surge to a lead and hold on for a 96-95 win and one of the most improbable sweeps in NBA Finals history! Barry would be named MVP of the Finals and finally had his long-awaited NBA Title!

In those years Barry would become even more visible, featured as the color analyst on the CBS playoff telecasts whenever the Warriors would be eliminated from the postseason. Rarely do we recall a pro athlete, other than Frank Gifford, or perhaps Joe Theismann, so groomed for a broadcast career while still a player. Barry was a natural as a color analyst, and among his TV works was the epic 1976 Finals series between the Celtics and Suns (including the unforgettable triple OT in Game Five), the latter having eliminated Golden State in an upset in the West finals. Barry would also guest on CBS game shows, including appearances with then-wife Pam on the Tattletales show (Bert Convy...remember?). As mentioned earlier, Barry would end his career with the Houston Rockets, morphing into one of the early “point-forwards” and ranking among the top all-time assist men for forwards while also taking advantage of the old ABA three-point shot, which was incorporated into the NBA for Barry’s last season in 1979-80. Barry would then move full-time back to CBS.

But Barry’s TV career would be disrupted in 1981 for an unfortunate choice of words (“watermelon smile”) when describing a photo of TV partner Bill Russell at the 1956 Olympics. While Barry would return a few years later on WTBS NBA telecasts with Russell, he never assumed his most-comfy analyst role again in network TV, which we always thought a shame, because Barry was so good. Barry would subsequently host a surprisingly-interesting sports talk radio show on KNBR in San Francisco, but we always thought it a regret that Barry never returned to TV work after the mid ‘80s.

Whatever. Barry’s name would continue to surface in subsequent years, mostly because of the basketball exploits of sons Scooter, Jon, and Brent (the latter two enjoying long NBA careers). From a subsequent marriage, Rick fathered another son, Canyon, presently one of the stars of the College of Charleston Cougars. Jon Barry, has also picked up dad’s old broadcast career and for years has been working on ABC and ESPN’s NBA telecasts. As for Rick, he would get another huge honor when deservedly inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987.

Unfortunately, the modern hoops crowd seems to remember little about Jon’s dad, who turns 71 this week. But we remember him well at TGS. Indeed, we can’t think of another hoops player, or personality, like Rick Barry, before or since. Colorful and controversial, for sure, but that’s what made Barry so interesting. He really was a singular sort among all-time hoop greats.

We seem to be attaching this saying to a lot of subjects in recent years, but, for better or worse, they sure don’t make them like Rick Barry any more.

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