The two best college basketball players…

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The two best college basketball players… the country during my Senior year at Adelphi, were both from New York, but only one played here, Barry Kramer, from Schenectady who played at NYU.

The other was Art Heyman, a kid from Manhattan who played high school hoops at Oceanside. His big rival wasn't Kramer, but Brooklyn-born Larry Brown, who played at Long Beach High School.

Although their rivalry was legendary in Nassau County scholastic sports, they became friendly off the court and having both been recruited by coaching icon Frank McGuire, each signed letters of intent to attend University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A couple of high school hoops stars in Nassau County in the late '50s.

It was perfect... a couple of Jewish kids1 from Long Island watching each other's backs in the antebellum South while playing for one of the country's top basketball programs.

Except that Heyman's step-father2 had issues with Frank McGuire, and Heyman went instead to UNC's fiercest sports rival, Duke University, 11 miles away in Durham.

Both young men had outstanding college careers3, but it was Heyman who was the stand-out, earning UPI and AP Third-Team All American honors as a sophomore, UPI and AP Second-Team as a junior, and as a Senior, won every individual honor in sight including the AP National Player of the Year award, the ACC Player of the Year award, and the Oscar Robertson Trophy.

Both he and Kramer were unanimous first team All Ameri­cans in 1962-63... Heyman as a 6'5" forward, Kramer as a 6'4" guard... and had a memorable confrontation in the East regional semi-finals of the NCAA Tournament.

With Duke up by a basket in the final minute and Kramer driving with the ball to the basket, Heyman blocked his shot.

The ball found its way back to Kramer and as he went up again, Heyman stuffed him again.

This sequence was repeated a third time and Duke finally got control of the ball and wound up winning, 81–76. Heyman scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

It was the most exciting four-five seconds of basketball I'd ever seen, and almost half-a-century later I'm hard-pressed to recall another such sequence.

(Yeah, there was that 1995 Reggie Miller sequence against the Knicks, but it's far too bitter to recall.)

Duke was eliminated in the semi-finals by eventual champion Loyola of Chicago, and finished third overall. Heyman was voted the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player, despite not even playing in the final.

He was the top pick overall4 in the 1963 draft, and went to the New York Knicks while Kramer was the top pick, sixth overall, of the San Francisco Warriors one year later.

(Larry Brown was selected 55th overall in 1963 by the Baltimore Bullets.)

Neither Heyman nor Kramer had productive professional careers5 and were out of the game very quickly. Ironically, both men had teammates, Jeff Mullins at Duke and Happy Hairston at NYU, who were long-time top NBA players.

Kramer is currently sitting on the State Supreme Court bench in upstate Schenectady County, and probably has the best jump shot of any sitting judge in the country.

Arthur Bruce Heyman, née Sondak, died Monday in Clermont, Florida of undetermined causes.

In his three years on the Duke varsity, he averaged 25.1 points per game while scoring 1,984 points, both school records at that time. He is one of three athletes in ACC History to have been elected unanimously to the All-ACC Men's Basketball team three times.

  1. Both Heyman and Brown as well as Kramer have biographical listings in Jews in Sports.
  2. Heyman's real father, who had died when he was seven, was Irving Sondak, an All American basketball player at, ironically, NYU during the '30s.
  3. They also had a fight on court during a 1961 Tar Heels/Blue Devils game which ignited a melee that included players and fans, and led to suspensions for both Brown and Heyman.
  4. The actual first player chosen was another consensus NCAA All-American First Teamer, Tom Thacker by the Cincinnati Royals with a pre-emptive Territorial Pick.
  5. Relegated to the bench during his second year with the Knicks, on a team flight Heyman wouldn't let Coach Red Holzman into a card game. "You won't let me into your game, you can't play in mine," he told his coach. He was with another team the following season.


1. EastEnd68 said...

25 points a game without the 3-point shot – that's a real accomplishment.

He was a helluva player in an exciting time for college hoops, just getting back on it's feet a decade after the near ruinous point-shaving scandals of the late-'40s and early-'50s.

2. Frank Wheeler said...

You forget -- '61-'62 was also the time of "Prince Jack" Molinas, and yet another point-shaving scandal.

Not at all... the earlier one had caught everyone by absolute surprise. College hoops ruled in the late '40s and early '50s, and schools like CCNY (which, in 1950, had pulled off a feat that can never been equalled, winning both the NIT and the NCAA tournaments in the same season), Manhattan College, NYU, LIU and Columbia, would regularly fill the old Madison Square Garden (Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th) while the New York Knicks drew less than capacity crowds at the 5,000 seat 69th Street Armory.

When it was learned that players Henry Poppe and Jack Byrnes from the 1950 Manhattan College team had been accommodating a trio of fixers, it was as big shock as the exposure of the 1919 "Black Sox" conspiracy, especially when it was discovered how widespread the fixing had been, all the way to the Kentucky teams of Adolph Rupp. Famed New York District Attorney Frank Hogan wound up arresting scores of players, including biggies Ralph Beard and Alex Groza, from seven colleges who shaved points or out-and-out dumped games between 1947 and 1951.

Jackie Molinas, a wonderfully gifted 6'6" forward/center has such an outstanding career at Columbia that he had been drafted third overall (ahead of Frank Ramsey and Cliff Hagan!) by the Fort Wayne Pistons, and was having a solid rookie year when he was banned for life in January 1954 when it came out that he'd shaved points and dumped Columbia games in college, and some of his on-court actions as a pro led to an investigation.

The 1962 revelations, with Molinas at the center, surprised few, but it didn't help college basketball reattain the prominent position it once enjoyed.

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