Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Iowa's 'Fabulous Five' Ready for Its 50th Reunion -- It Was a Team With a Great Coach [Bucky O'Connor] And No 'Me, Me, Me' Attitude

Sharm Scheuerman was on the phone from Denver, Colo. – winding the clock back a half-century.

“Sharm, how would you describe that 1955-56 team?” I asked.

“It was a team,” Scheuerman said, placing strong emphasis on the word team. “It was a team with a great coach, who got the most out of his players.”

Scheuerman [right], now 71, was a starting guard on coach Bucky O’Connor’s team -- known as the Fabulous Five -- that’s regarded as the best in University of Iowa basketball history.

The Hawkeyes won the Big Ten championship with a 13-1 record, finished 20-6 overall and were second to Bill Russell’s San Francisco team in the NCAA Final Four at Evanston, Ill.

“No one on the team cared who scored the points,” Scheuerman pointed out.

Those who watched that squad beat one opponent after another in old Iowa Fieldhouse -- and I was one of them –- would put it this way: The 1955-56 Hawkeyes played basketball the way it should be played.

There was no “me, me, me” attitude. No “look what I’m doing” kind of thinking. It was long before SportsCenter on ESPN zeroed in on every slam-dunk from coast to coast.

Those 55-56 Hawkeyes are having their 50th reunion this weekend in Iowa City. They’ll gather Friday, attend Saturday night’s Iowa-Ohio State game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and go their own ways again Sunday after a brunch.

Most members of the team are expected to be present. However, Carl Cain, the standout forward who averaged 15.8 points, likely won’t be there because of some health problems.

“And [reserve] Babe Hawthorne passed away a while back,” Scheuerman pointed out.

The starting forwards were Cain and Bill Schoof [10.8 scoring average], center Bill Logan [17.7] and the guards were Bill Seaberg [13.9] and Scheuerman [10.1].

The top reserves were Bob George [3.8], Augie Martel [2.2] and Tom Payne [3.0].

All of the starters’ jersey numbers – Cain [21], Seaberg [22], Logan [31], Schoof [33] and Scheuerman [46] have been retired by the university.

Those Hawkeyes won three of their first four games, then lost four in a row –- to Washington, Stanford, California and their Big Ten opener to Michigan State, 65-64.

But then Iowa reeled off 17 consecutive victories before losing to San Francisco, 83-71. One of the biggest was over Illinois, 96-72, in a Big Ten showdown at Iowa Fieldhouse that was a classic.

“We used two guards, two wings and a center,” Scheuerman said. “Seaberg was a better shooter than I was, so he was the shooting guard. I thought I contributed and got the ball to the right player as a quote-unquote point guard or playmaker."

Scheuerman said his best game as a scorer came against Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky team in the regional tournament at Iowa City.

“I had 23 points [in our 89-77 victory],” he said. “Carl Cain had 35.”

Iowa beat Temple, 83-76, in the opening round of the Final Four before the loss to San Francisco. The Hawkeyes had no answer for Russell, who scored 27 points and an unbelievable 26 rebounds. Cain and Seaberg each scored 17 points for Iowa, and Logan had 15 rebounds.

Scheuerman had a 72-69 record –-including 18-6 in 1960-61 -- as Iowa’s coach from 1959-64. He took over after O’Connor died in a traffic accident in 1958. Scheuerman also later was a television and radio analyst of Hawkeye games.

After that, Sharm was a coach and general manager of Athletes in Action, a well-known basketball team of post-college-age players. He’s now president and CEO of BCI Edge in Denver, a team of players aged 23 to 35.

“I left Athletes in Action over two years ago,” he said. “I formed BCI Edge to serve as goodwill ambassadors for the U.S. in the spirit of Jesus, exemplifying character, integrity and our faith.

“The way athletics at the high level, especially basketball, is going, what we stand for is needed more today than ever before.”

The BCI Edge team played a number of games in China in October and November.