LSU Short Story
Pistol Pete's Date with Destiny
Ron Higgins, Tiger Rag, January 2020
In a packed John M. Parker Agriculture Center 50 years ago,
LSU guard "Pistol Pete" Maravich became college basketball's all-time scoring leader.

It's crazy to consider 50 years ago on January 31, 1970, almost 12,000 people crammed into LSU's John M. Parker Agricultural Center confidently expecting to see someone score 40 points to become college basketball's all-time scorer.
In the last 20 years of SEC basketball, there have been just 10 40-point games.
But that night a half-century ago, 40 points in a game was a given when you're talking about LSU's "Pistol Pete" Maravich, who averaged an unfathomable 44.2 points during a three-year Tigers' varsity career from 1967-70 in which he scored 40 or more points in 69 percent of his 83 games.
It was so much a given Maravich would pass former Cincinnati star Oscar Robertson's NCAA record of 2,973 points set in 1957-60 that it was never a point of conversation among Maravich's teammates.
"We really did not talk about it," said Rich Hickman, who was part of Maravich's recruiting class in 1966 and started with him in the backcourt on the freshman team and for two seasons on the varsity. "We knew it was inevitable. We were playing with the greatest NCAA basketball player who ever walked the face of the earth."
From day one, the 6-5 Maravich had skills that belied his rail-thin physique.
"After we played for an hour and he threw passes I'd never seen before, I went straight to a phone to call my brother to tell him to buy all the season tickets he could," said Brad Brian, a former senoir varsity guard for the Tigers recalling when Maravich showed up on campus for his first pickup game.
While Maravich's scoring managed to get the attention of the national media, it was his passing and ballhandling that packed gyms. Every fastbreak was an adventure as he fired passes between-the-legs, behind-the-back, behind-the-neck, no-looks and ones he created the the spur of the moment.
It wasn't easy playing with Maravich, who was given the green light by his father and LSU head coach Press Maravich to shoot as many times as possible, which turned out to be 38.2 career attempts per game.
"Press's main objective was to make Pete the most prolific scorer in the history of the game," Hickman said. "We (the rest of the team) knew we were there to form a unit to support LSU and Pete.

L-R: Pete Maravich, Oscar Robertson, Rich Hickman, Press Maravich
"Some players we signed couldn't handle because they came out of high school used to being stars. They just left LSU and went somewhere else."
Yet Hickman, a sweet-stroking right-handed shooter from Maravich's hometown of Aliquippa PA, went the distance. He gathered incredible memories that haven't faded, like that historical night against Ole Miss when Maravich became college basketball's scoring king.
Bud Johnson, then LSU's sports information director, remembered having no empty seats on press row for the first time.
"We had a lot of national press there that we never had," Johnson said. "One of Pete's goals was to get to New York City to play in the NIT in Madison Square Garden, the mecca of basketball.
"So, while Oscar Robertson's record was important, Pete wanted to make a good impression in the national press, particularly the East Coast writers who had never seen him play. He felt it would get LSU to the NIT." (It did, and you can read about it in the Golden Archives here ...)
The scene that always stands out is when Maravich's record-breaking 17-foot jumper and subsequent 10-minute on-court celebration are shown, then-WAFB-TV sportscaster Bob Scearce is doggedly trying to conduct an on-court interview with Maravich.
"There were still more than five minutes left to play, but I don't think Bob realized or cared about it," Johnson said. "He wanted his interview." (Watch video of the record-breaking shot ...)
Pete's best potgame quote after he finished with 53 points in a 109-86 win was abouthow he missed five straight shots before he broke the record.
"Maybe I was worried subconsciously about the record," he said, "but I also knew I had 13 games to do it. My dad said it would be fun to average just three points and 20 assists the rest of the way to keep people in suspense."
Even today, after his 10-year NBA career and an untimely death in January 1988 at age 40 because of an undetected heart defect, Nisamith Basketball Hall of Famer Maravich holds 21 LSU, 16 SEC and 14 NCAA records. That includes 3,667 career points in an era when freshmen were not eligible to play varsity and there was no 3-point shot and no shot clock.
His legend, mostly thanks to YouTube, has never faded.
"I'm 71 years old and retired," said Hickman, who lives outside of Dallas. "There are still people that find out I played with Pete. They say, 'Are you kidding me? Pistol Pete Maravich? Tell me about it.'
"It still makes me smile that people remember who he was and what he did for the game of basketball."