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Iowa State Players in Professional Men’s Basketball: Part 1 (1946-1980s)

Curious to learn about the Cyclones that started their professional basketball career from 1946 to the 1980s?

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Larry Bird Chasing Rebound

To the user Cycago Bear, you commented on one the professional football series of this on March 5, 2018 requesting a series such as this.

In my time-honored tradition of starting many articles but never finishing any of them, hopefully this finds you, and everyone else curious, well.


Maurice Horner/Des Moines Register/Oct. 17, 1943

Hal Crisler - 1946 - Boston Celtics - Basketball Association of America

Harold Crisler (December 31, 1923 – November 2, 1987) came to Iowa State after transferring from San José State for the first three games of the 1943 football season.

Crisler was the highest scoring end in the Big Six with three touchdowns, two against Nebraska.

The reason for Crisler’s hasty departure was due to his graduation of the Navy diesel school, which lead to him being ordered to report to San Diego.

Crisler spent 18 months in the South Pacific.

In four games with the Boston Celtics in the December part of the 1946-1947 season, Crisler scored six pts: 2/6 FGs, 2/2 FTs.

The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) | Dec. 28, 1946

The Boston Globe reported he filed for marriage on November 17, 1947 to Thelma N. Henrichsen (1924-1984).

1941 Bomb

Carl Bruch - 1947 - Waterloo Pro-Hawks - Professional Basketball League of America

Carl (April 1, 1918 - March 14, 1997) went to Waterloo East before spending the 1940-1941 season with the Cyclones. Bruch was in the Army during World War II, and after the war he played one game (one foul) with fellow Cyclone, and next on this list, Price Brookfield.

Until his retirement in 1979, Bruch was the manager of the Manufacturing Project Division of Plant and Production Engineering for Deere & Co., per his obituary.

Des Moines Tribune 28 Mar 1944

Price Brookfield - ABL, NBL, PBLA, BAA, NBA, NPBL and IPBA.

Price (May 11, 1920 - April 17, 2006) was a consensus All-American with West Texas A&M University (scoring 1,406 points there, leading the nation) in 1942 before “grad transferring” to Iowa State College for the Final Four season of 1943-1944. He was permitted to play as he took part in ISC’s Navy Engineering program.

Jared’s fun fact: Brookfield appeared in 13 games with the Borger Gassers (West Texas-New Mexico League), going 2-3 as a pitcher and having a .435 batting average in 23 at bats in 1942.

His first professional stop was with the Baltimore Bullets in the ABL in 1945-1946.

Next, with the NBL winning Chicago American Gears, Price averaged 4.5 points per game.

Brookfield was also the first NBA player in Cyclone history, scoring 476 points while there.

He finished his basketball playing career in the Indiana Professional Basketball Association with the Muncie Brammers in 1953-1954.

After retiring from playing, he was a high school coach and teacher for 25 years in Indiana.

Cyclones swarm in on (future 7x NBA All-Star Dick) McGuire of St. John’s in Madison Square Garden in a 71-47 loss on December 21, 1948.
1949 Bomb

Bob Petersen - Five Seasons in the National Industrial Basketball League

Petersen, number three in the above picture, spent all five seasons in the NIBL on some very poor (win-loss wise) Milwaukee Allen-Bradley squads.

Milwaukee Allen-Bradley 1949-50 to 1953-54
Kenosha News/Dec. 26, 1950

1949 Bomb

Don Paulsen - One Season in the NIBL

Don (August 7, 1924 - Dec. 31, 2013), who scored 180 points during the 1949-1950 season, “served three years in WWII with the Illinois Infantry Division in the South Pacific and participated in the first invasion unit to land at Wakayama during the Japanese occupation”

He spent the 1950-1951 season with Milwaukee Allen-Bradley.

Dudley Ruisch - One Season in the NIBL

Ruisch scored 216 points during the 1949-1950 season, and then he too went to Milwaukee.

Cyclone Men’s Basketball - Twitter

Gary Thompson - 1957 NBA Draft - 5th Round, 35th Overall - Minneapolis Lakers

Gary Thompson will be one of the first recognizable names in a sea of more or less unknown players. The “Roland Rocket” was the first basketball player in school history to score over 1,000 points, as well as the first multiple sport All-American in Iowa State history. He would be the Big Seven Player of the Year in 1957, and was also an outstanding shortstop on the 1957 College World Series team, hitting .311 with four home runs and 18 RBIs.

Legendary Kansas coach Phog Allen had high praise of Thompson, saying “Inch for inch, Gary Thompson is probably as good a player as the Big Seven has ever seen, and it’s seen some fine ones.”

Former Iowa State coach Bill Strannigan sees if Gary Thompson “measures up” to being an All-American.
File Photo/The Register

33 spots after Thompson was drafted, legendary Syracuse running back Jim Brown was drafted by the then-Syracuse Nationals (now Philadelphia 76ers).

Gary never played with the Lakers; however, he did play with the Phillips 66ers of the AAU from the 1957-1958 season to the 1961-1962 season, when he took over as coach.

He would later get into broadcasting for NBC, and would retire as a broadcaster in 2005. Gary is part of the inaugural Iowa State Hall of Fame Class of 1997.

John Crawford - Nine Seasons in the Eastern Professional Basketball League

John (April 22, 1935 - March 21, 2014) was part of Cyclone teams from 1955-1958. The 6’5” New York native appeared in 68 games, scoring 913 points on 37% shooting as well as pulling down 658 rebounds.

Against Wilt Chamberlain and No. 1 Kansas, Crawford scored seven points in the 39-37 upset.

Professionally, Crawford played in the EPBL from the 1961-1962 season to 1969-1970.

His best season was arguably 1963-1964 with the Scranton Miners when he averaged 19 points and 10.4 boards per game.

Cyclone Men’s Basketball - Twitter

1961 NBA Draft - Hank Whitney - 4th Round, 37th Overall - Syracuse Nationals

As a Cyclone, Hank (April 28, 1939 - April 5, 2020) averaged 10.3 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game. The 12.1 rebounds per game he averaged as a senior (1960-61) is still the third best mark in school history, he also averaged 17.4 points per game that season. In his last game as a Cyclone, he scored 34 points against Kansas.

On February 27, 1960, the 6’7” Whitney pulled down 22 rebounds (in five overtimes), and just two days later he pulled down 23 against Missouri. He had 19 double-doubles that season, good for fourth best in a season in ISU history. He was the second African-American to ever play basketball at Iowa State.

Whitney is the only Cyclone to ever play in the ABL, EPBL, ABA, and EBA where he did from 1961-1973.

In the Eastern Professional Basketball League, he scored 28.4 points per game with the Allentown Jets in the 1966-67 season, which would be the highlight of his professional career. In 2013, Whitney was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.

Hank was inducted into the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.

1963 NBA Draft - Vince Brewer - 6th Round, 52nd Overall, Syracuse Nationals

Vince (Vinnie) Brewer was named Big Eight Conference Tournament MVP in 1959, and he scored 14.1 a game and averaged 9.2 boards a game. Per the December 11, 1961 issue of Sports Illustrated, Brewer is “a hot-shot junior, who scored 366 points in his sophomore season and then dropped out of school for a year.”

Brewer scored 22 points in a 1959 game against Washington, the then-high-water mark for single game scoring at Iowa State. Brewer finished his Cyclone career with 1,027 points.

The cager was dubbed a sparkplug by The Indianapolis Star on December 8th, 1962.

He spent two seasons with the Scranton Miners, though no season stats could be found.

Brewer scored 13 points in this win and Crawford scored 10.

Iowa State Men’s Basketball - Facebook

Zaid Abdul-Aziz - 1968 NBA Draft - 1st Round, 5th Overall - Cincinnati Royals

As a Cyclone, Zaid is one of the best ever, scoring 1,672 points and grabbing 1,025 rebounds over three years. In 1968, he was a third-team All-American and Big Eight Player of the Year. He’s second all time with 20 double-doubles in one season (1968) and has the most double-doubles in a career with 54 (he averaged 22.3 ppg and 13.7 rpg). The 22.3 ppg is the highest for a Cyclone over their career, and he also holds the season record for free throws made with 210. Zaid had 24 rebounds on three separate occasions.

His rebounding talent is seen in the video below.

Abdul-Aziz retired from the NBA in 1978, and he averaged nine points and eight boards a game, with a career best of 13.8 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game in 1971-1972. Zaid was inducted into the Iowa State Hall of Fame in 1998.

En mis buenos tiempos Jugando por IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY de la Liga BIG eight de aquella época.(In my good times Playing for IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY of the BIG eight League of that time.)
Raúl Duarte - Facebook

Raúl Duarte - 1969 NBA Draft - 12th Round, 160th Overall - San Diego Rockets

Before coming to Iowa State, Duarte played in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, averaging 9.0 ppg, with the Peru National team. At these Olympics, Raúl set a Guinness World Record for the most siblings to compete in a single Summer Olympic event.

However, before the Olympics, the Peruvian team took on Iowa State and Raúl scored 22 points despite fouling out with over ten minutes to play in the game.

At Iowa State, the 6’9” Duarte scored 483 points and pulled down 300 rebounds in two seasons (1965-1966 and 1966-1967) before transferring.

At South Dakota State in 1968-1969, Duarte played in 24 games scoring 273 points and pulling down 203 boards. In a December 1968 game against his former school, Duarte scored four points and fouled out in a 94-61 loss that was paced by (next on this list) Bill Cain’s 33 points.

After not making it on the Rockets, Duarte played for semi-pro teams such as: Trans World Air Lines TWA., Golf Oil, and Gillette.

1970 NBA Draft - Bill Cain - 3rd Round, 42nd Overall, Portland Trail Blazers

Bill Cain is one of the single greatest rebounders in school history. Record-wise, he has the most rebounds in a season (396), most rebounds in a single game (26) and most rebounds per game in a season with 15.2 his last season.

Cain’s basketball career came to a brief halt after being cut by Portland, so he went off to Belgium to play a season and then he returned to Chicago to pursue a working career. He soon got a call from an agent in Vichy (France) to come back and play in France. He would play at Vichy from 1972-1975, even leading the team in scoring in ‘74-’75 with 843 points that year. Even with Cain’s outstanding play, Jeanne d’Arc de Vichy was demoted to Nationale II (the French second tier league).

From 1975-1983, Cain played with SCM Le Mans, and his goal going there was to help them win their first national title. Cain helped lead Le Mans to three titles: 1978, 1979, and 1982. He was also a member of the French national team from 1978-1980, appearing in 63 games and scoring 754 points. From 1985-1988 he played at Roanne which was in Pro-A/Nationale I at the time.

In 2002, Cain was inducted into the Iowa State Hall of Fame.

1979 NBA Draft - Andrew Parker - 3rd Round, 46th Overall, Washington Bullets

Andrew Parker led the Big Eight in scoring in both 1978 and 1979, scoring 605 and 548 in each respective season. He is ninth all time with 391 free throws made in his career. Coach Lynn Nance called him “one of the best one-on-one scorers in the country,” according to the attached newspaper clipping. He was a first team All-Big Eight selection in 1978 and 1979. At the time he graduated, he was the 13th highest scorer in Big Eight history. He is third all time with 44 consecutive games with double digit scoring.

As a member of the Bullets, Parker went on a basketball tour in August-September 1979.

Maine Lumberjacks shorts from (1980-1981) Andrew Parker’s teammate Joe DeSantis.

With the Maine Lumberjacks (Continental Basketball Association), Parker appeared in 84 games for the green and black (from 1979-1981) clad basketballers from Bangor, averaging 22.8 points per game (1,919 total points).

Iowa State Men’s Basketball - Facebook

Dean Uthoff - 12 Seasons in the NBL (Australia)

Iowa State’s leading rebounder with 1,233 rebounds from the 1976-1977 season to 1979-1980 season scored 1,245 points during his career as a Cyclone.

With the Nunawading Spectres in 1984, “Man Mountain” Uthoff had a NBL record 34 rebounds in a game once, 33 in a game twice and 32 in a game once.

1988 Eastside Melbourne Spectres (Dean is #12)
Nunawading Basketball - Facebook

He finished his career with 1,013 rebounds in Sydney with the Kings from 1992-1996.

NBL Finals - Tigers v Kings Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images

He finished his NBL career with 3,755 points and 3,369 rebounds.

Barry Stevens - 1985 NBA Draft- 2nd Round, 43rd Overall - Denver Nuggets

Barry (November 7, 1963 – February 21, 2007), the inventor of Hilton Magic in 1983 averaged 16.5 ppg in the 1982-1983 season, 22.2 ppg in the 1983-1984 and 21.7 ppg in 1984-1985.

After making it all the way to the final rounds of cuts, he was eventually released by the Nuggets and made his way to the Wisconsin Flyers and Wyoming Wildcatters during the 1986-1987 season and in 30 games, 8.6 ppg and 2.6 rpg.

He would then go to the Cedar Rapids Thrillers and bounce around the CBA (becoming the CBA’s three point champion in 1991) until the Golden State Warriors picked him up for a ten day contract on March 2, 1993.

He became the head coach of the Gary Steelheads (2001-2002) and an assistant coach with Eastern Illinois from 2003-2005.

Jeff Hornacek - 1986 NBA Draft - 2nd Round, 46th Overall - Phoenix Suns

Hornacek (who played from 1982-1983 to 1985-1986) had 665 assists, 412 rebounds, 211 steals and 1,313 points, with none bigger than his 26 foot shot to beat Miami (OH) in the 1986 NCAA Tournament.

Professionally, “Horny” didn’t hit his peak until 1990-1991 when he was third in the league for three-point percentage, the season following, he averaged 20.2 points per game and was an NBA All-Star.

1991-1992 hersey sold at auction in December 2019 for $853.20

In his last two seasons, 1998-1999 to 1999-2000, the 1986 Big Eight First Teamer averaged over 12 points per game with the Jazz and was the NBA All-Star Game Shootout winner in 2000.

Jeff Hornacek...

Jeff Grayer - 1988 NBA Draft - 1st Round, 13th Overall - Milwaukee Bucks

Iowa State’s leading scorer (1984-1985 to 1987-1988) started 124 of 125 career games played at Iowa State, finished with 2,502 points, 910 rebounds and 252 assists.

The Second-Team AP All-American in 1988 also had his number 44 retired that year, and later that year, at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Grayer won a Bronze Medal and averaged 6.9 points per game.

Grayer appeared in 438 NBA games scoring a total of 3,257 points, 1,294 rebounds and 635 steals.

Iowa State Men’s Basketball - Facebook

Lafester Rhodes - 1988 CBA Draft - 1st Round, 1st Overall - Topeka Sizzlers

Lafester is one of the most prolific Cyclones in school history with his 54 point performance against rival Iowa in 1987.

“Doc”, at 6’8”, 200 pounds shot 49.9% for his career. In 82 games played, he totaled 910 points, 325 rebounds, 78 assists, 63 steals and 54 blocked shots.

Despite being drafted first overall, he never played for the Sizzlers. In fact, it’d be apt to say his pro career fizzlers-ed out because of a broken leg and a suspension.

Rhodes was a hot commodity coming into Ames, but he, and to a greater extent his mother, thinks Iowa State failed him as Ted Gup’s piece, “Foul!” from Time on June 24, 2001 explains below. It’s wordy, sure, but to me at least, an interesting read:

On the night of Dec. 19, 1987, Lafester Rhodes did what no one in Iowa State history had done before. He scored 54 points in a single game, razor-edging rival University of Iowa 102-100. No one who saw that game will ever forget Lafester Rhodes.

Back in 1983, when he graduated from Manassas High School in Memphis, Lafester was a hot property. Despite a 1.9 grade average and a meager 17 on his ACTs, he was courted by more than 80 colleges, some tempting him with offers of money, clothing and jewelry. “Assistant coaches would take me outside my house and show me some stuff,” he remembers.

For an 18-year-old, it was all too much. Lafester was six the last time he saw his father, and his mother had two failing kidneys. The family lived on her Social Security and disability checks.

Lafester was excited and confused by the swarming recruiters (he still keeps their letters in a Nike shoe box under his bed). “I didn’t really know what was happening,” he says. “I didn’t have a father to guide me, so I decided.”

Lafester’s choice: Iowa State. Coach Johnny Orr had flown to Memphis, where, says Lafester’s mother Elsie, “he made two promises — that he would graduate and that he would play pro ball.” Lafester did neither. Today, Elsie is bitter. She feels Iowa State did not keep its word. “My momma talks about it - every day,” says Lafester, who after five years left Iowa State a few credits short of a degree in family and consumer science. He took twelve hours of classes, but often put in 20 hours of practice a week. Ironically, it was his freshman year, when he was ineligible to play, that gave him the most satisfaction. “It was great for me. I got to be like a regular student.”