Revisiting the Indiana Basketball All-Individuals: Half One

With America’s independence celebrations this weekend and all the good vibes surrounding Indiana University’s basketball program, I couldn’t think of a better time to revisit the All-Americans Indiana Basketball has had over the years.

In this two-part series, we’re going to do just that. Due to the size and scope of the work, I will only include first and second team players in this series. We’re going to catch up with some of the other players who have excelled nationally over time.

What better time to revisit the Indiana Basketball First and Second Team All-Americans than the long weekend of July 4th!

At the top of the list is the incomparable Don Schlundt. Schlundt is Indiana’s only three-time All-American who received the 1953 second-team and 55’s and 1954 first-team awards. The 6-foot-10 Schlundt led the Hoosiers to the national championship in 1953.

During his outstanding career, Schlundt averaged 23.3 points per game, setting the then Indiana scoring record of 2,192 points with 46% field goal shooting and 77% free throw shooting. His goal scoring record would last until 1987, when another Indiana All-American would break it. (I bet you can’t guess who that was. Ha!)

Don Schlundt made a decision that seemed strange today when, after graduating from IU, he decided to forego a professional playing career and instead start his career in business. The NBA wasn’t what it is today, and it may have been a much simpler lifestyle at the time. Unless you really enjoyed long bus rides.

Next up on the list are three players who represent Hoosier size.

Scott May is the first of the three in chronological order, winning spots on the All-American team in both 1975 and 1976. During this time Indiana went 63-1, remained undefeated in 1976 with 32-0 and took the national title. It was the team’s last college basketball to accomplish the 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 prior to the start of the NCAA tournament. Indiana lost a heartbreaker in their elite eight match with Kentucky, 92-90, despite 33 points and 23 rebounds from the next man on our list.

For his career, May averaged 17.7 points at 51% shooting from the field and 77% from the free throw line. After his outstanding senior season at the IU, he was number 2 in the NBA Draft.

Many basketball historians and fans, including players from 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 crushed their opponents from May’s injury.

Next on the list of two-time winners is Kent Benson. Benson played on the All-American team with front-court colleague Scott May in 1976 and then followed in his 1977 senior season with another All-American performance. Benson was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 1976, which was a great honor on a team of this caliber. Benson was number 1 in the 1977 NBA draft and played 11 seasons in the league.

The third man on our two-time winner list is the only one, Steve Alford. Alford won All-American honors in both his junior and senior seasons. In his senior season, which culminated in the 1987 NCAA championship, Steve Alford became Indiana’s all-time scorer with 2,438 career points. This is an award he held just a few years before Calbert Cheaney came and rewrote the Indiana and Big Ten record book.

INDIANA GUARD STEVE ALFORD

Alford was drafted in the 1987 second round of the NBA Draft, the 26th overall selection for the Dallas Mavericks. Alford played four seasons in the NBA with Dallas and Golden State. He then immediately moved to the coach and in 1991 was head coach of Division III Manchester University. His coaching career was just beginning, with stints in Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico, UCLA, before taking up his current job as coach of the Nevada Wolfpack.

A host of Hoosier legends have earned All-American awards at least once.

In 1921 a Hoosier made his breakthrough and earned the title of the first All-American Indianas. His name was Everett Dean.

The awards 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 coached both the Indiana basketball and baseball teams from 1925 to 1938, and in 1942 Dean coached the Stanford Cardinal basketball program to a national championship.

Next up is the man the Simon Skodt Assembly Hall court is named after, a Branch McCracken. The Indiana Legend received the First Team Honor in 1930. McCracken’s accomplishments in Indiana are almost too many to list. At 6-foot-four, Branch 200 pounds was able to play center, forward, and guard. His coach Everett Dean credits McCracken as a pioneer in postplay.

“Once, when he was slowed down by injury, he planted himself back near the free-throw line to the basket, from there to players who cut past him or held the ball and rolled into the basket themselves. “When we saw what he could do, we let him go,” said Dean. “He was one of the first college centers to play the pivot the way it is played today.” [Branch McCracken – Wikipedia]

After his playing days, McCracken became the head coach of Ball State from 1930 to 1938, leading the Cardinal to a 93-41 record. Eventually McCracken was elected head coach at his alma mater, where he coached the Housin ‘Hoosiers from 1938-1943 and 1946-1965. During his tenure as Hoosier’s headman, he put together 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’re wondering the gap between 1943 and 1946, McCracken was busy doing something that further enriched his legend when he left Indiana to serve as a lieutenant in the United States Navy during World War II serve. (Now you just show off, Branch. Ha!)

I’ve thought in the past that the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall seat should be renamed Coach Knight, but after re-familiarizing myself with Branch McCracken’s exploits in Indiana as a player and coach, I’m sorry, but I can just don’t imagine ever actually doing that.

So there you have it, part one of our look at some of Indiana’s great All-American players.

Check out Part 2 tomorrow! Hopefully a few minutes of your drudgery will pass when you get back to work after your long weekend. One can only hope!

God bless America! And God bless the Indiana Hoosiers!

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