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Jerry Remembers Dick Groat

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Jerry C. downloaded Barry Jacobs' Fan's Guide To Duke Basketball 2012-13 and had some thoughts about his time at Duke and, perhaps, Duke's greatest player ever, Dick Groat. 

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As I was reading the magazine which is very interesting and well-written I could not help but recall a few of the great exploits of Dick Groat. He had the driving ability of Jay Williams and was almost as good a shooter as JJ Redick. But of course there was no three-point shot in his time. There have been a number of great athletes at Duke University but I do not think any of them captured the admiration of the student body as much as Groat.

The last time he played in the Duke indoor Stadium was as a naval reservist in an exhibition game Against the regular Duke squad.

The thing that made that game so memorable was not the game but the ovation Dick received when he came on the floor. I have heard roaring ovations in my life but none in my memory was ever so intense and long-lasting as the one that the students gave to Dick that evening. Someone may have recorded the number of minutes it lasted but I do not remember that number. No one wanted to stop clapping and cheering.

As you know he was an All-American in baseball and basketball. He was an MVP in the National League for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1962 I believe. But he will tell you his favorite sport was basketball. For a short time he played for the Detroit basketball team at the same time as he was playing baseball for the Pirates.

In the 1950s Duke was by no means a powerhouse but just an average good basketball team. Other teams knew if you could stop Groat you could probably beat Duke. But very few teams could do that. He led or came in second in the nation in scoring one year and always had a high average. He held the single-game scoring record until Danny Ferry broke it a number of years ago. I was lucky enough to have seen both of those games.

I recall one incident when he had the ball on a fast break with two defenders ahead of him between him and his basket. They knew if they really tried to stop him they would end up fouling him and giving him a three-point play rather than just two points which was inevitable. They just stood there holding up their hands straight up in the air waiting for him to drive past.

Because of his exceptional driving ability he got fouled an enormous number of times. And he made most of them. I think I recall he made either 16 or 24 consecutive free throws in one game. There was a life-size mural in the game room of one of the women's dormitories on East campus of Groat slashing between two opponents and flipping in an underhand layup.

To simply say that he was loved by the student body would be a great understatement. And he always wanted to please his adoring fans. Whenever he made a mistake he would run back up the court running his hands through his hair in dismay.

In his last game in a Duke uniform he set the single-game scoring record at 48 points against North Carolina. In the dressing room after the game he was in tears. He said, " At first I didn't want to come to Duke but now I don't want to ever leave it."

A couple of more thoughts. I forget to mention  Groat would have also been a national leader in assists if they have been officially kept at that time. Yes, he was amazing to watch. He was able to twist thru defenders and make baskets using spin that would not be possible otherwise. He was truly a magician.