Also See: Baseball Sweeps Kansas; Earns No. 6 seed at Big 12 Championship
"HOOT" STILL PLAYING FOR THE GOLD
By Mark Janssen
Kansas State's run for a national basketball championship may have ended in March, but that's not true for former Wildcat John "Hoot" Gibson.
Gibson was a forward for Jack Gardner's Wildcats from the 1948-49 season through the 1951-52 campaign when K-State won a pair of Big Seven titles, plus advanced to the NCAA title game in 1951 when the squad lost to Kentucky, 68-58.
"We're a lot of old guys trying to stay in shape, but once we get on the court we get pretty fired up," said Gibson, who says he's been a part of "four or five" Gold Medal finishes in basketball and "about the same" in volleyball. "I need the exercise so I play basketball rather than walk on the treadmill, which can become awfully dull. But sure, those competitive juices kick in every time you get on the floor."
While a shoulder injury ended his volleyball career several years ago, not even quadruple bypass heart surgery two years ago could end his basketball career.
Living in Cincinnati, Gibson says age-group players from 50 to 80-plus get together two or three times a week to practice, or play. "We're not afraid to scrimmage the younger guys," quipped Gibson.
At the national level, teams play 3-on-3 games of two 12-minute halves with a running clock.
Chuckling, Gibson said, "It seems like it would go in a hurry ... unless you're 80."
At one time or another, Gibson has teamed with Gene Neff, who was on the Kentucky roster that K-State played in the 1951 title game, plus Don Hughes of Cornell fame.
Comparatively speaking, Gibson says his game today is like it was at K-State 60 years ago.
As a Wildcat, Gibson said he was "... very quick with fast hands. I stole the ball a lot." And now, he says, "I go up against guys 6-foot-9 or 6-foot-10, but I'm quicker than most of them."
Gibson arrived at K-State out of Pittsburg, Kan., and was a three-year contributor to the Wildcats averaging 3.0 points for his career.
As a junior, he was one of the top reserves just behind a five-man starting lineup of Ernie Barrett, Jack Stone, Jim Iverson, Lew Hitch and Dick Knostman on a team that went 25-4.
Three of those wins were against Arizona, BYU and Oklahoma State in the NCAA West Regional staged in Kansas City, Mo., prior to a loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Championship game staged in Minneapolis, Minn.
"That championship game is one you'll never forget. It's hard to take even today," said Gibson. "I played on a sprained ankle and then Ernie suffered a shoulder injury against Oklahoma State. We won that game by more than 20 points, but at the end they had some players get a little ornery and knocked Ernie around pretty good."
Along with the memory of the loss to Kentucky, Gibson also remembers it being the game that his father, Lawrence, did not get to see.
"He was Speaker of the House for the state of Kansas and the legislature took up a collection for his airplane ticket to Minneapolis," reflected Gibson. "There was a terrible snow storm and he ended up having to land a good ways from Minneapolis and had to listen to the game on the radio."
Gibson, whose son, Brian, played for Tex Winter at Northwestern, would get his degree in Agriculture from K-State, enter the U.S. Army, and then return to the Wildcat campus to get a degree in veterinary medicine. Gibson would later attend Purdue and then Ohio State where he received a doctorate in veterinary pathology.
Oh, as for the nickname "Hoot?"
"My high school coach called me that, which was the name of a silent-film cowboy," said Gibson. "I had never heard of him, but he came along before Roy Rogers."
Gibson says he does his best to keep up with the Wildcats, and first knew of Frank Martin when he was an assistant to Bob Huggins at Cincinnati.
"He's young and has some things he could learn from Tex (Winter) on strategies, but he's done a heckuva job," said Gibson. "He's done a good job with recruiting, and if you don't have the horses you can't run very fast. He's a bright young coach, who is learning fast."
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