The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky on February 20, 1955 · Page 89
Get access to this page with a Free Trial

A Publisher Extra Newspaper

The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky · Page 89

Louisville, Kentucky
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 20, 1955
Page 89
Start Free Trial

Louisville's gift to Alabama basketball, renter Jerry Harper, left, is a well-liked, shy, deeply religious 6-fout-8-inch toner. Alabama Coach Johnny Dec combined feigned innocence with fast talk to hire his star awav from home-town Louisville By GAY TALKSE WITH the possible exception of bourbon-flavored hominy grits, cotton, Phenix City and newly reinstalled Governor James E. "Kissing Jim" Folsom, the most-talked-about item in Alabama these days is a tall, gaunt Louisville-born basketball hero named Jerry Harper. He is the gangling, 6-foot-8-inch Flaget High School graduate of 1952 who used to be constructed as frailly as a $1.98 bridge table. Because no one in Kentucky seemed to mind, Harper was lured off to Alabama by a fasMalking Chicago lawyer. The lawyer, a 30-year-old ex-Notre Dame athlete who wears Tattersall vests and chain-smokes, became the University of Alabama basketball coach soon thereafter, and his name is Johnny Dee. In two years the Dee-coached Alabama teams have won so dramatically and so often that customers in that normality football-partial state are switching brands and buying stock in basketball. The chief reason for this, of course, is Harper. Southeastern Conference arithmeticians are now making book that Harper who is only a junior is a can't-miss choice for Ail-American honors. He has scored more than 1,000 points in a little over two seasons, is often called the best rebound artist in the South, and he can shoot, dribble, pass it, hide it, feint, weave and set up plays with unbelievable dexterity and poise. Every Alabama basketball scoring record has been broken by Harper. At every home game he draws S.R.O. crowds. When Alabama and the University of Kentucky play at Lexington on February 28 in the battle royal which may decide the Southeastsern Conference crown, the individual whom Withcat coach Adolph Rupp will fear most will be, naturally, one Jerry Harper a guy Rupp could have obtained with the greatest of ease if he had only known in 1951 that Jerry Harper was alive. But when Harper was at Flaget he was as anonymous as the mailman. "I had a broken hand in my senior year at Flaget, you know," Harper recalled. "I missed half the season, and played the rest with a big, crazy cast on all the time." Flaget's combination biology teacher-basketball coach, Jim Huter, spotted Harper one day dissecting frogs with a nail file and badgered the tall man until he agreed to go out for the squad. K, KENTUCKY'S loss and Alabama's greatest gain has tremendous spring in his legs, and overcame clumsiness by judicious exercises in rope-skipping, hand-stands and square-dancing sessions. "Harper now has remarkable agility," said Dee, whose team is currently leading the Southeastern Conference. "His true value to us is not found in the scoring column as much as in his ability to rebound." Harper made All-Conference at the end of his sophomore season, was among the nation's leaders in rebounds, and sufficiently impressed Kentucky to make the Wildcats "All-Opponent" team a hard-earned niche he cut out for himself by scoring 17 points against Rupp, Inc., last season a futile effort in a 68-43 Kentucky triumph. This season, to the virtual surprise of no one, Harper has been what movie pressagents would term colossal andor terrific. In the third game of the season Harper grabbed off 24 rebounds and paced his team to a stunning win over the N.C.A.A. finalists, Bradley. He has been averaging 20 points per game and has led Alabama's young quintet to 11 victories in its first 13 games. Addicted to blue serge, drape-model suits similar to the kind worn by George Raft in gangster pictures, Harper is a shy, well-liked, deeply religious individual. He avoids poker games, never smokes. He just turned 20 last month, is a better-than-B student in engineering, wears an Ivy League haircut and possesses a decidedly Gothic look more aptly described by a teammate as the Daddy-What-Is-Beer Look. Jerry Harper almost went A.W.O.L. from Alabama before his freshman year, and Coach Dee is overcome by enthralling numbness every time he thinks of it. "It was just before classes opened in 1952," Dee began. "I was counting on Harper to be the No. 1 man around whom I'd build the team. Continued on Page 12 This story wot writteen at our request by It. Gay Talese, assistant to It. Col. Gus A. Schottenberg, public information officer at Fort Knox. We knew that lieutenant Tolese had attended the University of Alabama, and it turned out he had watched Jerry Harper develop into Bama's basketball big gun. Tales also wrote the article on Pages 22-iJ this week. II THI COUmm-JOUdNAL MAOAZINI

Get access to

  • The largest online newspaper archive
  • 15,800+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
  • Millions of additional pages added every month

Publisher Extra Newspapers

  • Exclusive licensed content from premium publishers like the The Courier-Journal
  • Archives through last month
  • Continually updated

Try it free