Marshall Basketball wins the 1947 NAIA National Championship-Part 2


HUNTINGTON — While the NIT has already started, as have the CIT and the CBI, and the NCAA Tournament — better known as “March Madness” — tipped off on March 13, Marshall fans would be well served to step back to remember a great date in Herd history. On March 15, 1947 — 70 years ago this year — Marshall Coach Cam Henderson took eight players to Kansas City a week earlier and came back with a Thundering Herd basketball’s only National Championship of the organization that today is National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) by winning five games in six days.

In a two-part story that started on Thursday, March 23, Herd Insider will look back at this championship tournament itself. We looked at, in part one, the regular season that would finish with 27 wins against only five losses. Part two of the story catches up with the Herd, 27-5 on the year and at Kansas City, Missouri, for the NAIB Tournament in March of 1947. Marshall is looking to bring a title back to Huntington and the Tri-State area, rather rare in the Mountain State’s history.

It is the only NAIA crown won by any current college team in the state of West Virginian — Mountain State University, now defunct, also won the title once in 2004, and was runner-up three other times, 2003, 2008, and 2011. Most of the state schools were also the members of what was the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC),  which was in the NAIA from 1937-1994 as a league, and folded in 2013.

Bill Hall with brace on his bad knee

Bill Hall, with a brace on his bad knee, was captain of the 1946-47 Herd and led the team in scoring. (Marshall Yearbooks from MU Libraries)

These days, it is by and large a new NCAA Division-II collection of WVIAC teams (with Ohio’s Notre Dame College from South Euclid and Urbana University from that Ohio town, plus the University of Virginia’s College at Wise) called the Mountain East Conference. West Virginia members of the MEC include Concord, Fairmont State, Glenville State, Shepherd, the University of Charleston, West Liberty, WV State University, West Virginia Wesleyan, and Wheeling Jesuit, and all but State and Wheeling Jesuit were founding members, UC then as Morris Harvey College.

Other former members of the WVIAC — Alderson Broaddus, Bluefield State, Davis & Elkins College, Ohio Valley University, Potomac State, and Salem International — have found other homes for athletics, as did WVIAC members from Pennsylvania, Pitts-Johnstown and, Seton Hill in the league’s latter years. AB, D&E, and OVU are now in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, or G-MAC, since 2016, joining Malone, Ursuline and Cedarville from Ohio, Kentucky Wesleyan and Trevecca Nazarene in Nashville.

Other WVIAC schools who played for the NAIA title include Fairmont State in 1968, West Virginia Wesleyan in 1983, and West Virginia State in 1987, and the University of Charleston was a Final Four team in 1967. These days, WVU Tech — another founding member of the WVIAC as New River Tech — is back in the NAIA as the school moves from Montgomery to Beckley.

Marshall was a founding member of the WVIAC in 1924 — the second attempt at putting in rules about attending school and being a full-time student first began in 1912, with Marshall, West Virginia Wesleyan and West Virginia University taking the lead for that first attempt — and belonged to the WVIAC from 1925-32 as a member competing for titles. Marshall rejoined the league from 1940-48 as a non-competing member (membership thought to be required for continuing certification of Marshall College) until joining the new Ohio Valley Conference in the fall of 1948-49.

The NAIA tournament was held at the Kansas City, Missouri, Auditorium, from 1937-74, then moving across town the newer Kemper Arena 1975-93. The following year, the tournament was off to Tulsa, Okla., and the Mabee Center (at Oral Roberts University) from 1994-98 and to the Tulsa Convention Center 1999-2001 before coming back home to the KC Auditorium through this year.

The 2017 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium was just completed last week, and this year’s title was won on March 21 by Texas Wesleyan, who beat Life (Ga.) University, 86-76, for the Rams second title in 11 years with a 29-7 record, breaking the Eagles 16-game win streak. Both teams were 3-seeds. The tournament was filled with Mid-South teams like Life and nearby schools in Kentucky, Pikeville College and Georgetown College, plus other schools like Cumberlands (Tenn.), Martin Methodist (Tenn.), Oklahoma City, Langston (Okla.), LSU-Alexandria, LSU-Shreveport, William Penn (Iowa), Biola (Calif.), Carroll (Mont.), and Lewis-Clark State (Idaho).

For the Marshall team in the 1947 NAIB Tournament with the Kelly green jerseys, the dazzling passing and scoring of the Thundering Herd won over the crowd from day one and carried Marshall to the national title in an association originally called the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB). A grueling tournament that required the Herd to win five games in six days — that is still true to this day — it just Marshall’s second trip to Kansas City under Henderson.

Financially, the always short of funds Marshall athletic administration had somehow come up with money to send just eight healthy players of the 12 team members and their head coach to Kansas City. The school was forced to leave in Huntington Henderson’s right arm for basketball, team manager Johnny Wellman, as well as four other substitutes. Henderson’s “Great 8” were there to battle for the title, following an amazing 27-5 season.

Bob Wright 1946-48

Bob Wright of the Herd was a 20-year old freshman from Elkhorn City, Ky., in 1946-47. (Marshall Yearbooks from MU Libraries online)

Marshall had only gone to the NAIB Tournament one time before, in 1938. The NAIA started its tournament in 1937, before the first National Invitational Tournament in 1938 — the more highly regarded tournament for many years to come — or the NCAA Tournament, which started in 1939. Marshall became eligible for the NCAA Tournament in 1954 as a member of the Mid-American Conference and played in its first in 1956 as champs of the MAC, and to five tourneys in all. The Herd went to its first NIT in 1967, when they made the Final Four right off the bat and has gone to New York five times in all.

Henderson took his 1937-38 Buckeye Conference Champions to the second NAIB tourney in 1938. The Herd would beat Peru State College of Nebraska and then fall, 53-51, to Washburn College out of Kansas, who made the Final Four of the 32-team tourney. It would be nine years, and a World War, before the Herd got to go back to the tournament — which only missed having a tournament for one year, in 1944, during the height of the war for America.

Central Missouri State (today the Univ. of Central Missouri) had won the first two tournaments in 1937 (8 teams) and 1938 (32 teams), beating first Morningside (Iowa) College, 35-24, then beating Roanoke (Va.) College, 45-30. Other winners were Southwestern (Kan.) College in 1939 (Glenville State made the Final Four), Tarkio State (Mo.) in 1940, San Diego State in 1941 (after losing in both ’39 and ’40), Hamline (Minn.) University won in 1942, and Southeast Missouri State in 1943.

After the war was appearing to be coming to an end finally, Loyola (La.) beat Pepperdine in 1945 in a 16-team tourney, 49-36. Then in the return to 32 teams in 1946, Southern Illinois beat Indiana State (coached by the legendary John Wooden), 49-40 — the most points scored by one team for the second year in the row, and 89 points combined being a new high.

Now is was time to get to Kansas City, and Marshall left on the train on Sunday. WSAZ 930-AM radio announced Sam Molen of KMBC in Kansas City will be doing all the Marshall games in the NAIB Tournament. The Herd checked into the Robert E. Lee Hotel in Kansas City and got ready to amaze the fans, from the warm-ups through the games.

Marshall opened with a wow on Monday, March 10, dropping River Falls State Teachers College (today’s University of Wisconsin-River Falls), 113-80, in a 7:30 p.m. game in Huntington. While Nate DeLong is still second in scoring in the tournament (record broke in 1963), he scored 56 points on 22 field goals and 12 free throws for River Falls. Marshall was the first team to ever break 100-points in the tournament’s ten years, and the 193 points combined was also a record. Hall scored 34 points for Marshall, third most in tourney history.

Not only was the high-scoring Herd fun to watch with its zone defense and fast break — again, both invented by Henderson back in 1913 — but the warm-up of the Herd had fans coming back early the next night. A series of behind the back and through the leg passes, now better know as the “King Drill” of the Harlem Globetrotters, was intended to warm-up the team and unnerve the opponent. From that game, the crowds were behind the Marshall quint for the rest of the tournament.

MUBSKB 1947 National Championship-2

Marshall players in action and headshots from the 1947 Chief Justice yearbook. (Marshall Yearbooks from MU Libraries online)

As profiled in the West Virginia Public Broadcasting documentary, “Cam Henderson: A Coach’s Story,” Henderson developed the zone defense while coaching high school basketball in a rough-hewn gym that had a leaky roof. Henderson basically spread out his defense in a 2-1-2 and gave them a “zone” to defend. Basketball had been a one-on-one game up until then, with James Naismith telling players to “stick to their man like glue” when he invented the game just two decades prior to Henderson’s innovation.

The “breaking fast” offense, with a middle man and two wings racing up court off the rebound, was a natural extension. Coaches from West Virginia native Claire Bee to John Wooden have acknowledged Henderson’s genius in coming up with the basis of modern basketball.

After having Tuesday off while the other first-round games were played, next up for the Big Green was a thriller with Hamline University Pipers from St. Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday, March 12 at 10 p.m. Hamline won the 1942 NAIA title (and would win titles in 1949 and 1950), and had opened the tournament with a 71-49 win over New Mexico University. 6,000 fans showed up for the Wednesday night game.

The Herd middle-man in the break, junior Andy Tonkovich, hit a free throw to give Marshall the lead with 8-seconds on the clock. Henderson then said to take the ball out of bounds instead of taking the second shot, as the old rules of basketball allowed, and dribbled away the clock for a 55-54 win.

James led the Herd with 16 points, followed by 10 points each for Tonkovich, Gutshall, and Hall, while Mike Kelsen had 16 points for Hamline.

Moving onto the quarterfinals, Marshall drew Eastern Washington (from Cheney), Mankato (Minn.) State would play Southeast Oklahoma, Northeast Missouri State (Now Truman State University since 1996, it’s seventh name change since 1867) would play Arizona State-Flagstaff (today’s Northern Arizona St.) and Beloit (Wisc.) College would play the Hornets of Emporia (Kan.) State.

MUBSKB 1947 National Championship-1

Marshall players in action and headshots from the 1947 Chief Justice yearbook. (Marshall Yearbooks from MU Libraries online)

EWU had beat Dakota Wesleyan 62-48 to advance to the quarterfinals with two-time NAIA All-American Irv Leifer, winning in both 1946 and 1947 for the first team after first earning a second team All-American honor in 1943. They were 22-8 entering the game under second-year, second term head coach Red Reese — he coached the team from 1930-42, served in World War II, then returned to lead the team from 1945-64 and ended with a record of 470-301 (61%).

The game with Eastern was a bit easier win for Marshall against the Eagles (today in the Big Sky Conference), with the Herd winning 56-48. Gutshall led the Herd with 20 points, the third players to lead the team in scoring in three games, while Tonkovich had 13 points and Hall 12.

Gutshall was in the Marines for 38 months, from 1942-46, and was involved in a number of the island-hopping operations in the Pacific, including Iwo Jima. He had a wife (Margaret) and daughter (Cinthy) and had played at Coalton High School near Elkins. He came to Marshall in 1940-42, out for the war, back for 1946-47 and graduated in June of ’47.

Marshall was averaging 74.7 points per game, after averaging 80 points per contest in the regular season. In a story in the Bluefield Telegraph from sports editor Stubby Currence, who said “Marshall is the No. 9 team in the South/Southwest Region of the nation, ahead of SMU, Alabama, Georgia Tech, LSU, and Tennesee.” He mentioned he would like to see the Marshall team matched up with West Virginia, who was No. 2 in the nation and No. 1 in the East, playing in the NIT (as was Kentucky, who were the runners-up to Utah in the NIT, but won 3-of-next-4 NCAA titles), making the Final Four with UK, Utah (who beat WVU, 64-62) and NC State.

It was a great year for local basketball fans. Cammack Junior High (today’s Huntington Middle) won the state junior high championship with wins over Charleston’s Woodrow Wilson Wolverines in the semifinals and beating War of Big Creek in the finals, 30-26. Huntington East won the state high school basketball title over South Charleston, 47-44, finishing 22-4 on the season.

Back in Kansas City, Friday’s semi-final would be a game fans talked about for a long time as Marshall met Emporia State College (today, University, like Marshall changed in 1961 from College) from less than an hour away in Kansas. The Hornets were the pre-tournament favorite, and the field was down to them, the Herd, Arizona State and Mankato State, and a record 8,000 fans were in the stands for the 9 p.m. (EST) matchup. It was the second time since 1945 the Final Four featured four new teams, something that did not happen again until 1965.

It was a game the Herd trailed 38-of-40 minutes in regulation and was down 35-25 in the second half of the game. Marshall put together a run late to take a 51-50 lead, but Bill Campbell of the Hornets went to the line just before the end to tie the game at 51-51, and there was overtime.

Again, Emporia moved to a 55-54 lead with 2:30 left in the game, and the Hornets tried to freeze the ball, stalling for the win. With less than 20 seconds left on the clock, Campbell saw what appeared to be an easy shot to ice the game but he missed the close bunny and the Herd headed up court.

MUBSKB 1947 National Championship-3

Marshall players in action and the team photo from the 1947 Chief Justice yearbook. (Marshall Yearbooks from MU Libraries online)

Bill Toothman, from Huntington East High School playing for his hometown college, took the in-bounds pass but did not know how much time was left on the clock behind him. Toothman weaved up over the half court and hit a winning bucket from about 50 feet, “slipped through the rim without even touching the nets,” said Associated Press writer Skipper Patrick, for a 56-55 lead. Emporia went to get the ball in, but Marshall stole the inbound pass and ran out the clock for the one-point win.

Bill Hall led the Herd with 15 points, Marvin Gutshall scored 13 points, 10 of which came in the comeback and Toothman had eight. Bob Wright scored his only points on a put-back of a Hall free throw miss in overtime, and Gutshall also made a free throw in OT as the Herd ended a 13-game winning streak for the Hornets. Bill Litchfield of Emporia led all scorers with 21 points in the loss.

In the second game (tipping off after 10 p.m. in the Central time zone) saw Mankato State also win in a thriller, 52-46 over Arizona State). It was an “M&M” match-up for the Saturday night championship between Marshall and Mankato, and a full house was expected at the Kansas City Auditorium, built in 1936 with 7,300 permanent seats and over 2,600 more temporary seats if needed — which they would.

The championship game on Saturday, March 15, broadcast to the Tri-State on WSAZ 930-AM (today’s WRVC 930-AM, a partner in the Kindred Communications group, known now as ESPN Huntington 94.1 FM and AM 930, still the home of Marshall football, baseball, and men’s basketball) was anti-climatic — although no one called winning a National Championship anti-climatic. Marshall won the NAIB National Championship with a 73-59 pasting of Mankato (Minn.) State for the title in a game Marshall only led 32-30 at the half.

A new record crowd of 8,500 that night (bringing the attendance for the Marshall games to 34,310, netting over $35,000) saw Hall light up the Mankato defense for 27 of the Herd’s 73 points, but Jimmy Bakalis scored 16 points including three straight buckets down the stretch of the win after only having 10  points total in the first four games of the tournament — and all but two points had come in the 113-80 blowout in game one in garbage time.

MUBSKB 1947 Cam Henderson in Kansas City, with Bill Hall and Not sure #7

Cam Henderson jumps on the radio with KMBC reporter Sam Molen, who was doing the games back in Huntington on WSAZ-930 AM, as Bill Hall and Andy Tonkovich wait for their turn.  (Marshall Yearbooks from MU Libraries online)

Bakalis came in with the Herd ahead by six points, 59-53, and he scored the next 12 points for Marshall to blow open the game at 71-59 with 2:15 left to play. Henderson had his boys stall the final two minutes plus, and Marshall also refused to shoot free throws three times down the stretch to set the final at 73-59 in a nice show of sportsmanship to a Mankato team who finished the season second in the nation and 21-4 for Coach Jim Whitham — who won 145 games from 1945-46 to 1953-54, an average of 20.8 per year.

Bill Hall finished the tournament with 98 points in five games, averaging 19.8 points per game and Hall, Gene James and Andy Tonkovich were named to the All-NAIB Tournament first team and went on to win First Team All-American honors. Bill Toothman was named a second team All-American while Marvin Gutshall was an Honorable Mention All-American.

Gutshall finished the tournament with 68 points, 13.6 per game. Jimmy Bakalis, Bob Wright, and Dick Erickson came off the bench to play in all five games along with the starters Hall, Tonkovich, James, Gutshall, and Toothman, meaning the Marshall Eight had been a team in the true sense of the word with everyone making a contribution.

Marshall’s players were ready to party after celebrating on the court and getting their championship banner and pictures. Henderson, however, was running short of funds for rooms and food. The players had been promised a party at the Robert E. Lee Hotel win or lose, but the coach had already canceled that and had the hotel wrap some sandwiches in wax paper to meet the team at the train depot.

The dejected players climbed into taxis to catch the George Washington Express eastbound in 40 minutes as Henderson hustled them out of the KC Auditorium and began the Saturday night return to Huntington. Not much of a celebration that night in Kansas City, but that would all change a day later Sunday, March 16, in Huntington.

MUBSKB 1947 Crowd for National Champs return

A crowd estimated at over 15,000 Herd fans gathered at the C&O Railroad terminal for the return of the National Champs from Kansas City on Sunday night, March 16. (Marshall Yearbooks from MU Libraries online)

On Sunday night after sleeping through the night and sitting around during the long ride home, the team was shocked when manager Johnny Wellman and assistant student-manager Dick Smarr boarded the train at Ashland, Kentucky, about 15 miles from Huntington. The told the team to get cleaned up and be ready for a little reception.

Little, indeed.

An estimated 15,000 Herd fans met the team, blew horns, rang bells and greeted their heroes at the old C&O Railroad Station (today’s CSX administrative offices) on Seventh Avenue. The noise was deafening from the nearly five minutes of shouting, ringing bells and blowing those horns, the players and coach each spoke over WSAZ Radio live to folks who couldn’t make the event.

The dignitaries at the station around 10 p.m. that night included Marshall President Stewart Smith, Graduate Manager H.C. “Twenty” Lantz and Raymond Brewster, editor of The Herald-Dispatch who was also the acting president of the State Board of Education. Gutshall was quick, telling those in attendance how much the team had appreciated the telegrams from all the fans while in Kansas City, adding “and those of you who didn’t send a telegram, I guess you didn’t have the money” to a very loud laugh.

James said the Herd’s warm-up of backhanded passes and fancy dribbling wowed the crowd. “The packed house at the Municipal Auditorium took one look at that exhibition, and came to its feet and began applauding the Green before the game started,” James said. “From there, the entire town was pro-Marshall.” James quickly added they had not read all the telegrams, but would!

Bob Wright may have said what was truest. “While we were playing ball out there,” Wright said, “we were as proud of you as you were of us.” Bill Toothman took the mic next. “I’m scared to death,” Toothman said. “I appreciate the crowd and the telegrams, they gave the boys a lot of spirit.”

Team co-Captain Bill Hall told the crowd “Gutshall took care of the speech making (for us). We are very happy to bring the Championship back.” Co-Captain Andy Tonkovich talked about why the Herd won the games, as had Jim Bakalis. “Thank you for all the support you gave us,” “Tonk” said. “(The other) the greatest things that helped up was our (physical) conditioning.”

Marshall had played 37 games in all that year, although Hall said at the 40th reunion the $1/day for meals and 37 games saw him drop from around 220 at the start of the season to about 189 at the end.

MUBSKB 1946-47 National Champs

The NAIB National Championship team “Great 8” included (front, from left) Bill Hall, Bill Toothman, Andy Tonkovich, Gene James, Marvin Gutshall (back) Coach Cam Henderson, Dick Erickson, Jim Bakalis, Bob Wright and manager Johnny Wellman. (Marshall Yearbooks from MU Libraries online)

Henderson was up next and took a bit of a jab at the school that sat in the northeast of West Virginia. “As a result of the tournament win, we have received offers from all over the nation,” Henderson said. “Whomever you have to suggest we will play — but teams I have coached have won 7-of-8 games from the University” to a huge cheer.

“I haven’t much to say. We would have never gotten anywhere without the superb cooperation of the boys on the team. They have a place in the hearts of Kansas City fans. After the first game, (the fans were) 75 percent for Marshall every night. Thanks from the bottom of my heart.”

Over the next week, the team was given banquets throughout the city over the next week, receiving jewel-encrusted basketball trophies, championship watches and even cigarette cases with “National Champions” engraved on them. It was a much different time for athletes in the 1940s, especially with many of them being men who just two and three years before had been serving in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of World War II in the service of the U.S., stopping enemies in a war that had to make basketball’s “wars” seem benign.

They each, along with Wellman, Smarr, and Henderson, also got table radios from a  local furniture store, shirts from local merchants and the Rotary, fountain pens from the Elks Club (Henderson was a member), neckties, silver lighters, shaving kits and a magnifying glass. The team ate as guests of the Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, American Business Club, Elks Club, Civitan Club, the Student Union Club and the Big Green Club.

Adolph Rupp, the legendary Kentucky coach, would be the featured speaker at a $10/plate, 300-seats sold out Junior Chamber of Commerce banquet for the teams the following week. The team was also the guests of the Rotary Club, the newly reorganized Big Green Club and the Student Union dinner. Later in March, there would be one more dinner, honoring Marshall, Huntington East and Cammack in a rare three championships for the Tri-State and Huntington.

MUFB 1949 Cam Henderson carried off Fairfield Stadium after last game

Just two years later, Cam Henderson was carried off the field by his players after a win at home during his last year coaching football in 1949, although he coached basketball until 1955. (Marshall Yearbooks from MU Libraries online)

Cam Henderson would end up in the West Virginia Sportswriters Hall of Fame, the Marshall Hall of Fame and is the NAIA Hall of Fame — yet still not in the Basketball Hall of Fame despite numerous attempts by Dr. Sam Clagg (who played and coached for Henderson) and Debra Novak and John Witek after their award-winning “Cam Henderson: A Coach’s Life,” even former Marshall AD Bob “Kayo” Marcum, who is on the board of the Hall.

The next season, in 1947-48, Toothman, James and Tonkovich were Honorable Mention All-Americans on the Associated Press national collegiate team. “Tonk” was also second team NAIB All-American the next season. The team earned a trip to the Helm’s Foundation Los Angeles Invitational when Marshall beat West Texas State (56-55), Idaho University (73-44) and Syracuse University  to win the tournament, 46-44, in overtime, something Henderson was as nearly proud of as the National Title, and it was unexpected as the Herd won games over Morehead State (62-55) and Cedarville (80-30) at home, then lost all six games from Indiana State-Washington University-Hamline-Beloit-Denver by train, then the team flew to Los Angeles for the tourney.

During that LA Invitational game and trip, Henderson’s football team had accepted a trip to the second Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Fla., against the defending champs from Catawba College. Assistant coach Roy Straight took the football team (minus ends Norman “Wild Man” Willey and Bob Koontz, who went to California with Henderson) to the game. Marshall lost, 7-0, but Donnie Gibson of the Herd, moved from quarterback to end with the two starters missing, led a Marshall defense that limited Catawba’s option offense to the least points and yards gained in two years.

Marshall basketball returned to the NAIA Tournament in 1948 at 21-10. The Herd beat Peru (Nebraska) State, 72-53, on Monday in front of a first round record of 8,000 to watch the lighting break and no-look passes of the Herd’s attack. Tonkovich led Marshall with 22 points, Toothman had 15 and James had 12. In Wednesday’s quarterfinals, San Jose (California) State beat Marshall in another overtime thriller that found Marshall once again down big, 15-points in the first half before tying the game 62-62 to force overtime.

In overtime, the game was tied at 72-72 late when Marshall fouled Junior Morgan of San Jose St. He hit a free throw for the 73-72 win. It was also only one more year before the Historic Black Colleges and Universities were invited to play in the NAIA championship, far ahead of the NIT and NCAA.

Marshall Natl. Champs 1947-48 Bob Wright HOF 2010

James and Tonkovich (first round draft selection, first pick, in the second draft) went onto play in the early days of the National Basketball Association after finishing at Marshall. James appeared in 88 games for the New York Knicks (1949-51) and Baltimore Bullets (1951), averaged 3.4 points per game, while Tonkovich went to the Providence Steamrollers for 17 games in 1948-49, averaging 2.6 points per game.

Hall went the AAU route, playing for industrial teams while working for them. He was a third-team All-America in 1945-46 and first team NAIA All-American as a senior. He later played for the Kansas City Shamrocks, the Dow Chemical All-Americans in Michigan and the Wheeling Puritans in the All-American League.

Marshall, Huntington and Cabell County would get the Veteran’s Memorial Field House built as a result of the title, becoming the home team of Herd basketball from 1950-81 (as well as supplanting the Radio Center for shows, dances, circuses and boxing) before the Cam Henderson Center became the home of the Herd in 1981-82. Henderson would coach through 1955, and sign the first African-American south of the Mason-Dixon line to a full four-year scholarship, Huntington’s own Hal Greer — the only Marshall player in the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. and named to the NBA’s First 50 team to celebrate 50 years of the league.

The Herd of 1946-47 were some of the greatest players and scorers in Marshall history: Jim Bakalis, Dick Erickson, Bob Wright (1,019 points), Tonkovich (1,578), Hall (1,421), Toothman (1,326), James (1,092) and Gutshall won at Kansas City.

Team captain Hall, Gutshall, James, Tonkovich, Toothman, Wright, Wellman and Henderson are all in the Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame. Another big part of the 27 regular season wins were players Fred Altizer, Ed Little, Al “Babe” Mazza and Jimmy Van Zant who, along with Wellman – the only student manager in the MU Hall of Fame – still are Marshall’s only national champions in basketball, winning the NAIA National Championship title on March 15, 1947.

MUFB 1947

1947 was a good year for the Herd. Marshall basketball won the national championship, while the football team (above) had a 9-2 season to earn a berth in the second Tangerine Bowl in Orlando while Henderson took the basketball team to win the Helms Foundation LA Invitational Tournament in California. (Marshall Yearbooks from MU Libraries online)

Let the final word come from the forward of the 1948 NAIB Official Basketball Guide by James R. McQueeny, the Publicity Director of the tournament. “The Marshall team (in 1947) had everything: speed, drive, shooters, heart, and a ball-handling technique that bordered on wizardry. Coached by Cam Henderson, the West Virginians, who gained the tournament on the strength of 27 victories in 32 starts, captivated the crowd in their appearance. Marshall averaged 70 points a game in its tournament appearances. Bill Hall, one of three West Virginians to be named NAIB All-Americans, topped the scorers of his team with 98 points in five games.”

“The Marshall team (in 1947) had everything: speed, drive, shooters, heart, and a ball-handling technique that bordered on wizardry. Coached by Cam Henderson, the West Virginians, who gained the tournament on the strength of 27 victories in 32 starts, captivated the crowd in their appearance. Marshall averaged 70 points a game in its tournament appearances. Bill Hall, one of three West Virginians to be named NAIB All-Americans, topped the scorers of his team with 98 points in five games.”

1946-47 Marshall Team Scoring:


Bill Hall (Capt.) 37 238 74 550 14.9

Andy Tonkovich 37 169 70 408 11.0

Gene James 37 156 91 403 10.9

Marvin Gutshall 36 145 38 328 9.1

Bill Toothman 36 111 59 281 7.8

Albert Mazza 27 74 39 187 6.9

Bob Wright 35 64 16 144 4.1

Jim Bakalis 31 45 15 105 3.4

Dick Erickson 28 24 17 65 2.3

Ed Little 20 13 7 33 1.7

Jim Van Zant 15 5 3 13 0.9

Fred Altizer 9 1 0 2 0.2

Totals 32-5 1,045 429 2,519 68.1

About Woody Woodrum

Senior Editor and columnist/writer for Herd Insider since 2003, with Kindred Communications on radio for Marshall football/men's basketball pregame and postgame shows since 1996 and with First Sentry Bank Sportsline (Also Scott on Sports, Sideline Sports and Herd Insider Sportsline) since 1997. Married to Liz (12-22-1990) and one son, Tre' (11-7-1997). National Sportswriters & Sportscasters West Virginia Broadcaster of the Year winner for radio, 2000; won W.Va. Broadcasters Best Talk Show in 2013 with co-host Paul Swann and W.Va. Broadcasters Best Play-by-Play in 2015 with Jason Toy (Huntington at South Charleston, state AAA semifinals). Member of (College) Football Writers Association of America, (College) Basketball Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Color commentator for Marshall football (1999-2000), for Marshall basketball (2004-2016) and Marshall baseball (2004-2016). Color for high school football at Spring Valley (1999-2008), Cabell Midland (2009-2012) and Huntington (W.Va.) High School (2013-2016).

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