Challenger Logo by Alan White   A Science Fiction Fanzine   Winter 2008-09

Mike wrote about one of his athletic obsessions – horse racing – for a previous CHALL. He couldn’t let a sports issue pass without hitting on another.

Bravo Bevo!

Mike Resnick

illo by Brad Foster

Everyone knows that Wilt the Stilt was the greatest scorer in basketball history, the only man ever to score 100 points in a game.

There have been some great shooters since then: Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Elgin Baylor, Kobe Bryant, and others – but no one ever came close to Wilt Chamberlain, right?

Actually, wrong.

This is an image of a robot twirling a basketball.

 

Most people today have never heard of the greatest scorer in history, though he was playing when I was a kid. He was a nice, clean-cut boy from Ohio. He eventually stood six feet nine inches tall, and, hard as it may be to believe, he was white.

 

His name was Clarence “Bevo” Francis, the press lovingly called him “Little Bevo” as their notion of a joke, because six foot nine was about as big as people got back then, and for a two-year period he was the sport of basketball.

He came along at a good time. College basketball had just been stung by a huge betting/point-shaving scandal in 1951. He soon made everyone forget all about it.

Let me tell you about him. He went to obscure little Wellsville High School in Ohio. Averaged 32 points a game, very good indeed, but no indication of what was to come. He gave a tiny hint of it when he scored 57 points in one game when he was a junior.

His coach moved from tiny Wellsville high school to an equally small college, Rio Grande, and in 1952 Bevo followed him. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to Rio Grande.

Let’s move the clock back to the evening of January 9, 1953. Rio Grand is playing against Ashland (Kentucky) Junior College, and Bevo has been lighting up the scoreboard all night. There are ten minutes left in the game, and he’s already burned Ashland for 61 points.

Then he got hot.

Bevo Francis poured in 55 more points in the final quarter, and wound up with 116 for the game. That’s right: 116 points. (The previous NCAA record was 87 points – 29 points less.)

The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, decided not to allow it because it came against a junior college team, so you won’t find it in the official record book.

But you’ll find Bevo there as the greatest scorer in history anyway – because on February 2, 1954, he burned Hillsdale, a legitimate 4-year college, for 113 points.

And you’ll also find that Rio Grande’s record during Bevo’s freshman year was 39-0. That’s right; they went undefeated. I think it’s fair to say that Bevo had a little something to do with that: he averaged 48.3 points a game as a freshman. He slowed down as a sophomore, averaging only 46.5. (By comparison, neither Jordan, nor Bryan, nor the new superstar on the block, LeBron James, ever averaged as much as 40 points a game in high school, in college, or in the NBA.)

Suddenly, thanks to Bevo, little Rio Grande was the hottest ticket in the nation. They adjusted their schedule and played 17 road games in a row, all in huge arenas against formidable competition. Didn’t bother Bevo. He just kept scoring, and Rio Grande just kept winning. In 39 games against 4-year colleges, including some powers like Miami, North Carolina State, Cincinnati, Villanova, Providence and Nebraska, he scored 50 or more points 14 times.

Bevo averaged 48.9 points for his entire truncated college career. And unlike Wilt, he could shoot the ball from anywhere on the court, and he could make free throws (including a record 37 against Hillsdale.)

Bevo was drafted after his sophomore year by the Philadelphia Warriors (the same team that drafted Wilt a few years later; they knew a scorer when they saw one.) Problem was, back then the superstars of the NBA made about $10,000 a year, a tad less than Michael Jordan’s $30 million per. Basketball just wasn’t the glamour sport it has become…and Bevo decided he could make more money working in the local steel mills.

He should have taken the offer, because what happened next ended his college career anyway. Rio Grande suspended him for skipping classes and exams after the 1953-1954 season, and since his campus job was paying a somewhat-less-than-munificent 50 cents an hour, he quit and took the best offer he could get, which came not from the NBA but from the Boston Whirlwinds, a barnstorming team that played (and made sure they lost to) the Harlem Globetrotters every night in front of packed houses. The Warriors knew what he could do and tried to sign him, but he had no interest in playing in the NBA, and after a few seasons touring with the Whirlwinds, then the Ohio Stars, and finally the Hazeltown Hawks – not quite the Bulls, Celtics and Lakers – he turned his back on basketball, returned home, and went to work in the local steel mills. He kept at it until he’d raised his family, and never seemed to miss the fame and adulation.

He’s still in Highland, Ohio, still living in contented obscurity, and still in the record books – the all-but-unknown greatest scorer of all time.

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