Monday, July 18, 2005

Yes, Lewis Lloyd is Alive--And I Hope His Story Ends Happily

The rumors of Lewis Lloyd’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Lloyd has made telephone contact from the Philadelphia area with people at Drake, where he was one of the best basketball players in university history from 1979-1981.

“Jeff Hill called me a while back and said Lloyd was interested in touching base with Drake,” Paul Morrison said. “Jeff told me that Lewis is thinking of going back to school somewhere in the Philadelphia area, and wanted to find out about his transcript.”

Morrison, who celebrates his 88th birthday in a week, is Drake’s longtime sports historian. Hill, of Des Moines, is a friend of Lloyd and a former teammate. Morrison said he talked briefly with Lloyd about his request to get his academic records in order.

The 6-foot 6-inch Lloyd finished second nationally in scoring with a 30.2-point average for Drake in 1979-80 after coming to the school from New Mexico Military Academy. He was fourth nationally with a 26.3 average for the Bulldogs in 1980-81.

However, after being drafted in the fourth round of the 1981 draft by the Golden State Warriors, he had drug problems as a National Basketball Association player, Along with Houston Rockets teammates John Lucas and Mitchell Wiggins, Lloyd was suspended by the league for substance abuse in 1986-87. He didn’t play again until 1989-90.

“It’s too bad he’s had such a checkered career since leaving Drake,” Morrison told me. “Over the years, people would ask me if I knew where Lewis Lloyd was. I’d tell them he could be 6 feet under.”

Fortunately, that’s not the case.

“When a guy like him is thinking of going back to school, you’ve got to give him a lot of credit,” Morrison said. “If he wants a transcript from the registrar’s office, I’ll pay for it myself.”

I observed plenty of Drake games that were played by both Lloyd and Hill when the Bulldogs still called Veterans Memorial Auditorium home. Whenever I’d see Hill in recent years, I’d ask if he had heard from Lloyd [who now would be about 45 years of age].

The answer was always, “No.”

I talked with Hill outside the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George in Des Moines a few years ago following the funeral of Dan Stamatelos, who had been an attorney and longtime Drake booster.

“Have you heard from Lewis lately?” I asked Hill.

“Still looking for him,” Hill said.

Academics definitely took a back seat in Lloyd’s life. He was all about basketball—and what a basketball player he was.

Lloyd attended Overbrook High School in Philadelphia [also the alma mater of the late Wilt Chamberlain], then wound up at New Mexico Military Academy.

Bob Ortegel was Drake’s coach when Lloyd was recruited to play. Lloyd, who told me he liked to be called “Black Magic,” so impressed the folks at the Missouri Valley Conference university that his No. 30 jersey was retired following his senior season in 1981.

The only other Drake player to have his jersey retired is Red Murrell, ol’ No. 33, who was an outstanding scorer from 1955-1958.

The fact that Lloyd’s number has been retired still bothers plenty of players who performed for Drake in the Maury John era. Former Bulldog standouts such as Willie McCarter, Dolph Pulliam and Jeff Halliburton—guys who led John’s teams to the 1968-69 Final Four and NCAA tournaments the next two seasons—have not had their jerseys retired.

Pulliam, who is now employed by Drake, is another person who has been contacted by Lloyd about perhaps continuing his education in the Philadelphia area.

“I liked Lewis when he played for Drake,” Morrison said. He was a likable, soft-spoken guy. Like a lot of kids from the inner city, he had a rough time. He ended up having a great career here and with the Rockets. But, like so many high-level professional athletes, he got involved with the drug scene.”


Paul Morrison came to attention when he noticed a recent Associated Press story that referred to Veda Ponikvar.

“Veda’s name jumped out at me,” Morrison said. “We overlapped at Drake, and she ended up being editor of the Times-Delphic. She had a great career as a newspaper owner and publisher in Chisholm, Minn.”

The story about Ponikvar centered around Moonlight Graham, a character from the movie “Field of Dreams.”

Archibald Wright Graham made his only major league baseball appearance 100 years ago for the New York Giants. He didn’t get a hit, but was left on deck. A late substitute in an 11-1 victory, he played two innings, and there’s no proof he ever touched the baseball.

Author W. P. Kinsella made Moonlight Graham a part of “Field of Dreams.” Ponikvar knew Graham for a half-century in Chisholm. The AP story said Graham arrived around 1912 after the town placed an ad for a school doctor. Burt Lancaster played the adult role of Graham in the movie.

Ponikvar threw out the first pitch at a recent Minnesota Twins-Kansas City game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

“After seeing the story, I wrote to her, saying she was going to be hearing from lots of old friends,” Morrison said. “She’s been honored at Drake, being given alumni distinguished awards. I recall her as being a very outgoing person when she attended school here.”

Vol. 4, No. 358
July 18, 2005