A Dave Stallworth update, and more

At every Wichita State home basketball game, I look across the way to see if Shocker legend Dave Stallworth is in his customary seat.

He hasn’t been for most of this season. He wasn’t at Tuesday night’s loss to Southern Illinois (good for him) and neither was I (good for me). And he’s been to only one game that I know of this season.

That has troubled me. Stallworth is Mr. WSU, an All-American for some of the greatest Shocker teams of all-time during the early

Dave Stallworth (9) in a New York Knicks team picture from their championship season in 1969-70. Can you identify the other stars of the team? Former WSU teammate Nate Bowman (17) is in the photo, as are the likes of Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, Walt Frazier and Dave DeBusschere.

1960s. He was involved in some legendary games and you could always depend on Stallworth to close the deal in a tight game.

I talked to him Wednesday afternoon and he assured me that his health is OK. He has had, he said, some heart issues in the past year, but he thinks the worst of that is behind him and he plans on attending Wichita State’s final home game of the regular season on Feb. 23 against Creighton.

That’ll be Senior Night and the Shocker seniors should definitely be the center of attention. But I hope WSU officials acknowledge Stallworth, who for my money is the greatest Shocker of all-time. And I recognize just how great of a player Xavier McDaniel was when he was at Wichita State. It’s no slight to McDaniel to consider Stallworth as the best WSU player in history.

Stallworth, incredibly, will turn 70 this year, in December. I was a kid when I watched him perform for the Shockers and, as I’ve said and written many times, he is the player most responsible for my love of basketball. I idolized Stallworth as a kid second only to St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson. They are my two favorite athletes ever.

It’s still a thrill for me to talk to Stallworth, even when the conversation is brief. He sounded in good spirits Wednesday and would probably not like it one bit that I was writing about his health. Fortunately, I doubt he’s an avid reader of my blog.

“I’m feeling OK, I’m OK now,” Stallworth said. “I had a little heart problem, it’s been about a year. But everything is good.”

Stallworth, like all Shocker fans, was disgusted by Tuesday night’s loss to a depleted and disheartened Southern Illinois team, which rose to the challenge and played its best game of the season. Still, it was a loss to a team that should never have been able to come into Koch Arena and beat the Shockers.

“Man, they can’t close,” Stallworth said of Wichita State. “They really don’t have those type of players. Once you get a team down, you’ve got to putĀ  your foot on them.”

Stallworth was unable to make it to last Saturday night’s game against Illinois State, during which members of the 1965 Final Four team were honored at halftime. Only a few of those players were in town, and Stallworth, who graduated at the semester break of the 1964-65 season and thus didn’t play in the Final Four, talked to former teammate Dave Leach via telephone.

Leach was one of the players in town for Saturday’s ceremony. He lives in Boise, Idaho.

Some quick hits:

  • I’m loving the “American Idol” auditions so far this season. I think Steven Tyler and J-Lo are good additions to the roster. But I don’t want everybody being lovey-dovey from the judges’ panel. It’s OK if Randy Jackson says snide things occasionally. That’s part of the show’s appeal.
  • No surprise that around 1,000 fans are suing the NFL in federal court over the Super Bowl ticket snafu. Those fans, who were either denied a seat or had their seat placement altered, are seeking $5 million in damages, although that number could be tripled under Texas trade law. The fans are alleging breach of contract, fraud and deceptive sales practices and are also seeking unspecified punitive damages. I think they have a great case. The NFL might not have any money left to give to players after this is all said and done.
  • I’ve now seen eight of the 10 movies nominated in the Academy Awards’ “Best Picture” category. I haven’t yet seen “The Fighter,” but will do so this weekend. And I haven’t seen “The Kids Are All Right,” but will also see that one soon. I don’t see how “The King’s Speech” doesn’t win. I did like “The Social Network,” which is getting a lot of run as a potential Best Picture winner. But it’s no “The King’s Speech.”
  • I’m kind of numb to all the issues going on within the Kansas State basketball team. I’m guessing you are, too. I have no idea why Curtis Kelly is still on the team. I assume they’ll get everything straightened out. I’ve never seen a season go more wrong than this one has for the Wildcats.
  • Wichita State has five regular-season basketball games left. I could see the Shockers going 5-0 or 0-5 and anywhere in between. Tuesday night’s loss to Southern Illinois opened up possibilities that I didn’t think existed before. The Shockers really need a floor leader. A coach can only do so much. I didn’t see any player stepping up and making sure WSU won that game against SIU. It’s disturbing.
  • A note: My regular Facebook friend feature, which has proved to be so very popular (cough), will be delayed until tomorrow. I’ll also have a sports writer’s memory, another regular feature on the Thursday blog. Thanks so much for reading this.