Dick Groat, Duke
Dick Groat, Pirates
Duke had several basketball All-Americans before the 1950s, but Dick Groat was the school's first consensus All-American. The Pennsylvania native came to Duke to play baseball for Jack Coombs. He was a standout shortstop and led Duke to the 1952 College World Series. He went on to a 14-year major league career, which included winning the 1960 National League Most Valuable Player Award.
But Gerry Gerard and Howard Bradley were delighted to have Groat spend his winters on the basketball court. Barely six feet tall, Groat lacked exceptional quickness, strength, or leaping ability, but his intelligence, skills, and competitiveness made him a standout on the hardcourt.
Groat's father would have preferred that his talented son stick to baseball. Remember that there was a lot more money in professional baseball than professional basketball in the 1950s. ...
Several of Groat's individual efforts stand out. On January 6, 1951, hoops fans eagerly awaited the matchup between Groat and North Carolina State's Sammy Ranzino, each of whom was ranked among the nation's top 10 scorers. Groat won the individual duel 36 to 32, but State won the game 77-71 in overtime. Duke led 67-59 with six minutes left but could not score the rest of regulation. Helping temporarily shut down Groat was State defensive stopper Vic Bubas, the future Duke coach. Groat's 36 points established a school single-game scoring record. It lasted only three weeks. On January 29 Groat set a school record with 37 points in a 90-68 win over Davidson. Groat went 17-17 from the foul line in that game. Groat ended the season averaging 25.2 points per game, fourth in the nation. He was named National Player of the Year by UPI and by the Helms Athletic Foundation.
If anything Groat was even better in 1952. He averaged 26 points per game, still the second-best mark in Duke history. In his final home game, on February 29, 1952, Groat scored a stunning 48 points to lead Duke to a 94-64 rout over North Carolina. He hit 19 field goals and 10 free throws and threw in a dozen assists for good measure. ... Duke finished the 1952 season ranked 12th in the AP poll, the first time Duke had ever ended a season nationally ranked. Groat was on all of the All-America teams and repeated as Southern Conference Player of the Year. His 26 points and 7.6 assists per game were both second in the nation. Later that spring Groat led the Duke baseball team to the College World Series. On May 1, 1952, Duke retired his number 12. He was the first Duke athlete to have his number retired. ...
Fred Shabel was a sophomore reserve in 1952. His parents came down to Durham from New Jersey at the end of the 1952 season to see their first college basketball game. This was the game against North Carolina when Dick Groat scored 48 points. Coach Howard Bradley took Groat out with seconds left and replaced him with Shabel. Naturally, Groat received a prolonged standing ovation.
After the game Shabel's parents were beaming. "Freddie, did you see how much they like you?" they told their son. "Everybody stood and cheered when you went into the game." Shabel never did tell his parents that the cheers were for Groat, not him.