Friday, January 20, 2006

1968 Flashback: West Virginia vs. UCLA

California Dreamin
By John Antonik for

Bucky Waters knew his West Virginia basketball team was going to be served up on a giant silver platter. The year was 1968 and his rebuilding Mountaineer squad was on their way to Los Angeles to play No. 1-ranked UCLA in Pauley Pavilion.

The idea was to stop over and face the Bruins before going on to Hawaii to play in the Rainbow Classic. In return, Waters says UCLA was supposed to come back to Morgantown the following year to help West Virginia open its brand new Coliseum which was scheduled to be finished in time for the 1969-70 season.

“I went out there to be a sacrificial lamb to (Lew) Alcindor and those guys with the idea that we’d showcase them back in our new Coliseum.”


“It’s 26-20 and we’re doing it perfectly,” Waters recalled. “Our kids are playing fearless, the crowd is kind of quiet and we’re doing well. Everyone is kind of looking around thinking, who the hell are these guys?

“Then (Alcindor) turns to try a little baby hook and Carey jumps up and blocks the shot,” said Waters. “One of our guys picks up the ball and we’ve got a 3 on 2. Our player sets up to take a shot on the wing and here is Alcindor, nostrils flaring and eyes bulging, racing down the floor after him. He’s trying to catch the ball out of the air – not block it.

“But he couldn’t quite catch the ball and he crashes into the backboard,” Waters continued. “You could have heard a pin drop in the place. Everyone had this expression of did I see what I thought I saw? My guys are looking around at each other and thinking, uh oh, so I called time out.”

As Waters began explaining to his team that it was just one play and there was still plenty of basketball left, Waters noticed the eyes of his players slowly rising up as he was talking. Their eyes continued looking up.

“That’s when I knew Alcindor was walking past our bench,” Waters laughed. “I turned to Carey and I said, ‘Thanks a lot. That block really didn’t help us out, pal. You just ticked off the big guy.”

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(photo credit: Academy of Achievement)


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