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Spotlight on Former Athlete: Dwight "Bo" Lamar - Men's Basketball 1969-73
Lamar found spotlight
Tom Cox recalls vividly the first time he saw Dwight “Bo” Lamar on a basketball court. “My first sighting of Bo, I was in Columbus, Ohio,” Cox said. “We were recruiting two players from Columbus East High School – Ed Ratleff and Nick Connors, who were high school All-Americans. Everybody in the country wanted them.
And now, at a robust 86 years old, long since retired from coaching and a successful insurance agent in Lafayette, Cox still puts Lamar among the best he's ever seen – certainly among the best he ever coaxed into playing for the UL Ragin' Cajuns.
“Then I watched them play, and there was a teammate who caught my eye (Lamar). Marvin Winkler was going to be a senior for us, and I knew we really needed to recruit a guard.
“So I called (head coach) Beryl Shipley and told him I really thought he ought to see this kid play.”
Ratleff and Connors were busy finishing up a two-year mastery of high school basketball in Ohio, unbeaten in Class 5A in that time. Lamar transferred to East Columbus as a senior, and had no problem fitting his game in with a pair of stars averaging 30 points per game.
Averaging some 14 points per game, he facilitated more than shot the ball.
And, at a slender 6-foot-1, he was literally in the shadow of the two stars.
“Bo only had one (scholarship) offer, from American University,” Cox recalled. “We were the only big-time program to offer him. I wanted to line up a campus visit with him, and he said, 'Coach, just send the paperwork. I'm coming.' We got 10 times more than we ever expected from him.”
Lamar averaged 22.6 points per game as a freshman, giving the Cajuns of 1969-70 a one-two punch with Winkler's swan song of 25.6 on a 16-10 team.
Then, 50 years ago this season, Lamar exploded onto the national scene, averaging 36.0 points per game to lead the nation's College Division and sparking the Cajuns' 25-4 finish.
As a junior in 1971-72, Lamar stepped up into the University Division and promptly paced the country at 36.3 ppg. Once again, the Cajuns finished 25-4.
With more talent around him like Roy Ebron, Freddie Saunders and Larry Fogle in 1972-73, Lamar averaged 28.9 points on a 24-5 team.
By the time he was finished, he had amassed 3,493 points, averaging 31.2 per game, and was (and remains) the school's all-time point machine.
A member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, Lamar was a once-in-a-lifetime talent in a small package.
Remarkably, the long-range shot artist notched his totals before the 3-point shot was part of the college game. It fairly boggles the mind to picture his numbers in a more modern setting.
Put simply, if he was in the building, Lamar felt he was within range.
“His freshman year, we were playing at Nicholls and it was close all game.” Cox said. “The last 15-20 seconds, we had a play set up for Marvin, but had to throw it out to Bo in the corner and he hit a bomb at the buzzer. Not too many freshmen are going to hit that.
“His junior year, he was leading the nation in scoring and we were scoring about 100 points per game. We were at Northwestern State. There was no shot clock at the time, and they slowed the game down.
“So at halftime Bo had about 10 points. Beryl said we're going to get a lead, then beat them at their own game. We're on our way back to the court, and Bo tells the team 'Don't worry about my points. Let's win the game. I'll get my points later.'
“We won the game (25-21), and the next game he scored 60.”
Individual artist though he was, Lamar was also a team player.
“In my opinion, there are two types of blue chip guards,” Cox said. “Those who are 100 percent team players, and those who play to show they're the best player on the court. They aren't selfish, but they play with a chip on their shoulder. That was Bo.
“At the time, most guards were under 6-5. Bo was 6-1, but he had tremendous leaping ability on his jump shot. He shot a lot of long range jumpers, which takes a lot of power in your legs.”
Cox was at USL for the last 8 years of Shipley's 16 years at the school, serving as the chief recruiter and helping the Cajuns grow from NAIA small school status to No. 4 in the country among major powers and threatening the national balance of power.
Five of his recruits went on to play in the NBA or ABA – Lamar, Freddie Saunders, Roy Ebron, Larry Fogle and Elvin Ivory.
The Cajuns weren't able to land Ratleff, who went to Long Beach State (Cox felt Ratleff could have vaulted USL to the Final Four). He did appear at Blackham Coliseum, though, in the 1971-72 season's Bayou Classic.
USL beat Long Beach State 90-83 and Cal State-Los Angeles 113-102 for the title, and Lamar and Ratleff shared tournament MVP honors.
Often asked who was better, Lamar or Andrew Toney, who helped the rebirth of the program after Shipley's program ended, Cox had a mixed response.
“You've got an outright shooter against an all-around player,” Cox said. “If I were to put together a college team, it would be Bo, hands down. If it was the pro game, it would be Toney.”
But Fogle, who was a freshman on the 1972-73 Cajuns, gets the nod for sheer talent.
“Larry was the best overall player we had,” Cox added. “The year after he played for us, he went to Canisius and led the nation in scoring. Then he averaged 50 points per game in a pro league in New York.
“But Larry was always going to do it his way.”* * * * * * *
Seeing Bo Lamar's No. 10 again might shake up traditionalists
By Bruce Brown
When a school or a professional sports franchise retires a jersey number, it is considered a singular honor to remember forever the achievements and contributions made by a player.
Once that number is retired, it can be hard to imagine anyone else wearing that jersey, even if the number is not officially unavailable.
No. 8 for the New Orleans Saints? Archie Manning.
No. 34 for the Chicago Bears? Walter Payton. No. 51? Dick Butkus. No. 40? Gale Sayers.
No. 17 for the Boston Celtics? John Havlicek.
No. 49 for the New York Yankees? Has to be Ron Guidry, former USL pitcher, Yankees' Cy Young Award winner and Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member.
Some names just fit the number forever.
Dwight “Bo” Lamar and the No. 10 are that way for Cajun basketball fans.
The Columbus, Ohio, native poured in 3,493 points for the Cajuns from 1969-73, averaging 36.0 points per game to lead the nation's College Division as a sophomore and then topping that as a junior in 1971-72 at 36.3 points per game to pace the University Division.
Lamar had more scorers around him as a senior, but still averaged 28.9 points as a senior to finish with a 31.2 career average.
Remarkably, the ultimate long range bomber did all that before the 3-point shot was approved in college ball.
The University announced last month plans to re-purpose some retired jerseys and make them available to current players, starting with Lamar, who was supportive of the move.
“I would be honored for any player to wear the No. 10 in a Ragin' Cajun uniform,” he said. “USL gave me the opportunity to showcase my talents in front of the greatest fans in the world.
“I enjoyed my time in Lafayette a great deal and I was able to develop lifelong friendships during my time on campus. I hope the next player who wears No. 10 will create their own legacy of success. USL has a special place in my heart and it's an honor to help the program in any way I can.”
Lamar, who scored 4,478 points and dished out 1,063 assists in the ABA and NBA, is currently recovering from surgery in Columbus.
His flair for the dramatic – if he was in the building, he was within range – sparked the Cajuns to a combined 90-23 record and repeated Top 25 rankings.
Other players with retired numbers in basketball include the No. 24 worn by Andrew Toney (2,526 points, 23.6 ppg, NBA champion with the 76ers), the No. 14 worn by Marvin Winkler (2,128, 19.7), Dean Church's No. 12 (1,546 points) and the No. 20 worn by Jerry Flake (2,058, 19.2).
Lamar, Toney and Winkler are in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Whoever opts to try on the No. 10 for Cajun basketball faces an enormous challenge. How can you top his exploits? You can't.
You can honor the memory, but No. 10 will always belong to Bo Lamar.
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Bo sinks another one during the 1972-73 season in Blackham.
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Click here for the photo gallery of the 1972-73 Men's Basketball Team.
The 1969-70, 1970-71, and 1971-72 photo galleries are also available in the Photo Gallery, Men's Basketball.
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Click here for Bo's Athletic Network Profile.
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Click here for Tom Cox's Athletic Network Profile.
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Click here for the 2007-present chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.
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