Papillion's 7-0 Mike Heck.
By Bobby Mills (1000 Yard Guy)
Now, I present to you the 1972 All-State Basketball teams. But first, here is how each class played out in 1972:
*In Class D, the Adams made the championship game look easy. The Hornets jumped on Palmer early and coasted to a 71-43 victory. Despite the blowout, the capacity 8,500 fans at the NU Coliseum stuck around to see if sharpshooting Kim Veerhusen could break Lincoln East star Kent Reckewey's tournament record of 118 points. Leading 49-30 after 3, Coach Larry Coorts decided to leave Veerhusen in the game and give him a shot at the record. The 6-2 senior needed 16 points in the final 4 minutes to eclipse Reckewey's mark, nailing a 15 footer with just 29 seconds left in the game. Veerhusen canned 43 in the title game while the Adams defense was holding....or stopping Palmer star Rick Peters all afternoon. Peters, the AD at St. Paul these days, suffered through an 0 for 15 shooting day and ended up scoreless for the day.
Adams barely escaped a Byron squad, 60-59 in the semis to get to the Championship game. According to the other Adams starters, Veerhusen was far from a "one man" show. I saw Verhusen play 4 times that year and he was a pretty unselfish player when I saw him perform. The kid just plain and simple, only took a shot when he knew he could make it. Unfortunately for Hornets opponents, that was a good majority of the time. Kim Veerhusen was probably worthy of making a Super State team had there been one in '72.
* Class C witnessed David City holding off a 4th quarter rally by Norfolk Catholic to win 60-52. The Scouts didn't hold Catholic's high scoring all-state 6-6 post man Joe Meuting down, but rather turned to David City's own all-stater Bob Martin and Mel Aldrich 16 points each, to win the Class C crown. Meuting poured in 25 points for the game, but just couldn't keep the late rally going when the Knights went cold toward the end of the contest. David City had a great 1st round game with Hastings St. Cecilia, winning a thrilling 78-71 scoring fest which I was lucky enough to see. Norfolk Catholic looked good in the sem finals, besting Scribner and 6-4 Kevin Nelson by a 58-51 count.
I just had an idea David City would take Class C with one of the best coaches in the state at the helm....Dick Muma.
Dick's brother Jay coached Schuyler and the Jolly Green Giants to a title in 1968 and another brother, Charlie was a successful coach at Bayfield, Colorado at the time. All 3 of the Muma brothers were all-state players during their high school days at Chadron Prep, then went on to pursue their coaching careers at Chadron State college.
It was that balance that won it for the Butler County boys. All 5 starters on the '72 David City Championship squad had been high point man in at least one game during the '71-'72 season, and of course having a player like Bob Martin certainly doesn't hurt things either.
* In Class B, a school with with not a lot of state tournament basketball tradition, wiped out years of hoops frustration with an "all or nothing at all" gamble by Coach Roger Higgens. Higgens gutsy Omaha Cathedral team was playing Crete in the "C" finals that day. It was a back and forth all game long. Cathedral led most of the second half until Crete's Tim Edwards nailed a 25 foot jumper with 1:01 seconds remaining in the contest. Crete was up 65-64. Cathedral drained the clock all the way down and rolled the dice with a "one shot to win it" strategy. 5-9 senior Mike Fouts, who was 6 of 20 for the game prior to this play, stood at the top of the key, shuffled left a little, and nailed the winning toss with ease. Randy Wenz (now a GI resident) and Tim Edwards both shined in the championship game for Crete......except for a slump that stretched halfway through the 2nd stanza to midway through the 3rd. It doomed the Cardinals from Crete. The all-state Wenz did score 27 in the game, followed by Edwards 20. That's 47 of Crete's 65 tallies. On the other side, Cathedral had 4 players in double figures for the game.
*In Class A, I swear most of the state was rooting for out-state Columbus to break the 10 year stronghold Omaha and Lincoln teams had on Class A. Fremont had been the last out-state team to get a Class A crown, that coming in 1961 when the Tigers beat Prep, 60-38.
On this day, the Discoverers were not to be denied as Columbus Coach Jack Johnson relied on a bench player in the 2nd quarter and two long range bombers in the 3rd, to build an huge lead on the way to a 71-67 win over defending state champion Lincoln East. Discoverer 6-2 Dan Lannen came off the bench in the second stanza with East leading 28-27 and immediately gave Columbus the lead. In the 3rd quarter Roger Brown and Frank Brower started launching the long bombs and buried the Spartans in a deep hole. In fact, at one point the fire balling Brown nailed SEVEN consecutive downtown rainbows. East did cut the lead to 70-66 with 1:51 left, but Columbus worked the stall to perfection as the Discoverers weaved around, outside the Spartan defense.
Talk about "Dead-Eye Dicks", Roger Brown, Frank Brower and Frank Lannen fit that description to perfection. They buried 22 of 32 shots from the field for the game, with Brown hitting 9-10 and 24 points. Brower nailed 7 of 13 and scored 17, while Lannen came off the pine and 6 of 9, scoring 16. The trio also hit 13 of 18 free throws between them in that title match. Samuelson, one of Lincoln East's heroes in the Miracle on Vine Street the year before, had 17 in the contest.
The 1972 All-State Basketball teams:
Kim Veerhusen-Adams - 6-2, Sr.
Scott Clark-Chappell - 6-0, Sr.
Earl Spitsnogle-Odell - 6-4, Sr.
Mike Couch-Mead - 6-5, Sr.
Rick Heldt-Yutan - 6-3, Sr.
*Well, the man with the vintage black horn-rimmed glasses was the shining star of this group. To be clear, in addition to Adams Veerhusen, Meads Mike Couch had the black glasses too, but the Adams bomber had the "designer" glasses that would be in style today. The specs must have done trick because Veerhusen scored a staggering 892 points in 1972. He scored 52 in a first round state tournament win over Mead and drained 22 field goals, both records at the time. The 6-2 marksman exploded for 43 more in that championship tilt aginst Palmer, on his way to a career 1,963 points. That places Veerhusen 29th on the all-time career scoring list. His 892 senior season points ranks 5TH All-TIME. Kim scored 63 points as a freshman, 405 as a sophomore and 603 his junior season. Not many could shoot that ball like Kim Veerhusen. I know I've worn out the phrase. "if there had been a 3 point shot back then" but......but just saying. Veerhusen was one of three repeaters from the 1971 Class D Dream Team.
Another repeat selection, Odell's Earl Spitsnogle, averaged 32 ppg and 20 boards in '72, hitting 58% of his FG tries. Earl "The Perarl" scortched the nets for 56 points in Odell's 114-80 win over SE Consolidated. Where is that kind of scoring these days? Don't get me started on that one. The other repeater was Mead's 6-5 Mike Couch. Felt bad for Couch because he had to end his career on the bench in the 2nd half of that 1st round state game vs. Adams due to a rolled ankle. Couch averaged 22 points and 17 rebounds a game in '72 and shot at a 55% clip form the floor.
Shortest member of the group was Chappell's Clark. Scott led Chappell to it's best season in 20 years, displaying a deadly eye from the free throw line. Clark was 17 for 17 from the charity stripe in one game, 13 of 13 in another, and 11-11 in TWO others. The 6 foot senior scored 43 points in one game and 42 in another, on his way to a career 1,095 points in just three years at Chappell. Then there's Yutan's Heldt, who patiently for 4 years to make all-state after making the all-tournament team as a FRESHMAN. And the ironic thing was the fact that Heldt shot the ball less during his senior campaign and THEN made all-state. Don't 'cha just love the TEAM basketball concept? No other way, man. Anyway, Rick Heldt was so prolific, he led Yutan in scoring and rebounding every season he was in high school. The all-american boy looking Yutan senior tallied 1,789 points in his career and averaged 20 ppg Each and Every year he played. Not too many can match that one!
No kidding, there were 8 other players that could have made all-state most other years in Class D. They were: Rick Cruise-Loomis, Martin Ficken of Davenport, Mike McCarter-Overton, Corky Charles-Mead, Dave Schultz-Clarks, Big Ed Gogan of Arcadia, Jeff Jacobsen from Marquette, and Raphael Starman of Petersburg.
A few other honorable mentions worth noting: Lee Marsh-Giltner, Russell Thede, Rick Peters-Palmer, Bob White-Doniphan, Tom Wragge-Niobrara, Rick Speers-Elm Creek, Leon Marquardt-Byron, Bill Simon-Falls City Sacred Heart, Jim Madsen-Litchfield, Guy Lief-Benedict, and Richard Burgert-Table Rock.
George Schroeder-Laurel - 6-4, Sr.
Bob Martin-David City - 6-1, Sr.
Joe Mueting-Norfolk Catholic - 6-6, Sr.
Kevin Nelson-Scribner - 6-4, Sr.
Dan Sorge-Geneva - 6-3, Sr.
*David City coach Dick Muma called Bob Martin the "best all-around player in the state" and he may have been dead right on that one. The wire-haired, once-in-a-lifetime athlete was repeat all-state basketball selection as well as football. And wouldn't you know it, Martin was the shortest member of this mythical squad, yet the top rebounder at 6 foot, 1 inches tall. Yes, Bob Martin was just that good. Martin averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds a game for the Scouts, leading them to the Class C title that year. Laurel, despite the absence of 2 time all-stater Steve Erwin, still stayed a top team with the 6-4 George Schroeder. The sharpshooting Schroeder averaged 25.7 ppg on 50% accuracy and hit 75% from the foul line. George scored 35 points in Laurel's opening round state tourney loss to Norfolk Catholic (77-63). Team stats indiacte Schroeder pulled down 22 rebounds a contest, although Coach Joel Parks thought it might be high. Probably was pretty close though. Good enough for me.
6-6 Norfolk Catholic post Joe Meuting scored 20 ppg and averaged 15 caroms. Meuting led Catholic to the Class C finals and scored 72 points during the Big Dance. I think Meuting could have scored 30 points a game had he not been a great inside/out passing wizard. But then again, thats why the Knights were in the finals......the TEAM concept shines again. Cool thing about Big Joe was the fact he was an excellent driver that could go to the hoop with great success with either his right OR left hand. One of the best players I saw in '72. Scribner's Nelson was just another fine 6-4ish player that fit the mold of the 1972 all-state squad. Kevin averaged 20 ppg and 17 rebounds for Scribby and nearly hit the 1000 point career mark despite missing 5 games during his senior season with a terrible lingering bout with the flu.
I liked that Dan Sorge from Geneva. Every young gal in that high school had to dream the handsome Sorge was their very own. Perfect picture of the high school all-american boy and his play on the basketball court against a bunch of Class B schools was a thing to behold. Sorge was right along side of David City's Martin in that all-state football backfield, averaged 22 ppg and averaged 17 boards for the 'Cats in '72. Geneva never made it to Lincoln, but every opposing hoops coach that saw Sorge defensive saavy, knew the lad was deserving of all-state basketball status.
Here is a 6 player group that would have made a very fine 2nd Team Class C All-State squad that season: Jerry Wissing-Hastings St. Cecilia...hey Jerry! Tom Hale-Mitchell, Lee Eret-Dorchester, Bloomfield's John Scott, Bob Parminter-Stromsburg and Bill Dorrance of Louisville.
And of course, some Honorable Mention names you may recall: Mike Mathes-Grant, Rod Schultz-Medicine Valley, Ross Friesen-Henderson, Rod VanSlyke-North Loup-Scotia, Mark Walford-Hebron, Ralph Kath-Tri-County, Jim Eberly-David City, Rick Kort-Blue Hill, Randy Enis-Valley, Sean McIntyre-Pawnee City, Jeff Anderson-Burwell, Joe Sindelar-Howells, Larry Inness-Elkhorn Valley, and Laverne Whippe-Minatare.
Randy Wenz-Crete - 6-3, Jr.
Bob Siegel-Fairbury - 6-5, Jr.
Mike Ziesel-Omaha Cathedral - 6-1, Sr.
Gary Keller-Aurora - 5-11, Sr.
Jim Wetzel-Grand Island Central Catholic - 6-2, Sr.
*Fairbury's Bob Siegel made the all-state squad for a 2nd straight season and was only a junior. The 210 junior led the Jeffs to 16 consecutive wins before falling to Randy Wenz and Crete in the District finals. Fairbury had set a Class B record by winning 38 straight games before that Crete setback. Siegel, who scored 499 counters as a freshman and 501 his sophomore season, upped his total to 632 that winter. Big Bob hit 52% of his FG attempts and pulled down exactly ONE THIRD of his teams rebounds, collaring 380 of those caroms. In that head to head district finals battle against Randy Wenz, Siegel won the scoring battle, 28-23.
Speaking of Randy Wenz, the current GI resident, the 6-3 junior had quite the season in 1972. Wenz averaged 23 ppg on 50% accuracy for Crete and was the leading Class B scorer in the state tournament in '72, scoring 93 points. That's 31 a game, sports fans. State Champion Omaha Cathedral's Mike Ziesel was the main cog in his team's machine. Ziesel was a nice dribble-drive man, shot well from the outside, rebounded strong, and scored 55 points for Cathedral during the state tourney. Mike went over the 500 point mark in that title game, ending his senior season at 506.
Aurora's Keller was the shortest man on the squad but played forward for legendary player/coach Bill Holliday. There were many games Keller dished out 15 assists while being double teamed. He still averaged 20.5 ppg for the Huskies. GICC's Wetzel, coached by the Wizard of Ruby Street, Freddy Northup, scored 25 a game before the Crusaders were sidelined at districts. Jim Wetzel may have been one of the most underrated basketball players in GICC's rich hoops history. Overshadowed by players like CJ Cowgill, Jeff Riley, Jeremy Wissing, and Kenny Howard, Jim Wetzel still has to be one of the best that school has ever produced.
Honorable Mention: Paul Jablonski-Lincoln Pius X, Steve Elwood-Creighton, Tom Siegel-Fairbury, Jerry Francke-Waverly, Walt Slatterly-Randoph, Kelly Higgens-Omaha Cathedral, Rick Seidel-Sidney, Steve McMillian-Columbus Lakeview, Tim Edwards-Crete, Jack Eberspacher-Centennial, John Gerrard-Schuyler, Rick Bunger-Minden, Joe Kinyoun-Superior, Scott Peterson-Broken Bow, Craig Pursley-Lexington, Steve Wilkenson-Alliance, Mitch Johnson-Central City, and Dave Neill of Cozad.
Ed Burns-Omaha Rummel - 6-2, Jr.
Tim Williams-Omaha Central - 6-3, Sr.
Mike Heck-Papillion - 7-0, Sr.
Jeff Seume-Omaha Westside - 6-4, Sr.
Frank Brower-Columbus - 6-4, Sr.
*How about this squad with NO Lincoln players represented? Not that odd these days, but back then, very rare indeed. Star of this team was Papillion's imposing 7 foot figure, Mike Heck. The magic thing about Heck, who looked like a giant stick man, was the fact he was the only returning player for Papio with any experience to speak of and still dominated by doing so many things. One of the most incredible things I saw Mike Heck do was bring the ball down court like a guard when the Monarchs were slapped with a full court press. That is no tall tale, pardon the pun.
Heck averaged 29.9 points a game while being double and triple teamed and cleaned 362 caroms off the glass in '72. The poor kid was just completely exhausted when this season ended from those triple teams, horrible bumping, pressure to handle so many team chores and big time college recruiting. Sadly, and that's putting it mildly, I'm afraid it would take a deadly toll on the well-rounded young gentleman in the months and years to come. If only we could have had a crystal ball for the future at the time. I just loved this player.
Omaha Central coach Jim Martin called his 6-3 Williams "inch for inch, the best Metro Conference rebounder in years". Tim Williams led the Eagles to the Metro title at 13-0, but lost to Rummel at districts. Omaha Westside's Jeff Seume was regarded as maybe the best defensive player in Class A, making the State Tournament all-tournament squad as a junior. Like Central, Westside was eliminated by Bishop Rummel in districts.
Columbus Discoverer Brower was his team's most consistant shooter, averaging 21 ppg during the state tournament and was Class A's leading scorer during the Big Dance. I'll pull no punches here, after I saw Omaha Rummel's Ed Burns play, I got down on my hands and knees before I went to bed, and prayed I would wake up the next morning and look and play like the 6-2 junior sharpshooting, hard charging rebounder. Good Lord, Burns was a player! This Hollywood movie star looking kid scored 396 points for Rummel in '72 and nearly matched that total with his 296 rebounds. Yes, that total was a 100 tallies apart, but no way a 6-2 inch player should have a rebound total even remotely THAT close to his points scored.
There were 5 other players that could have come close to making this squad and they were: Ed Burns teammate, Larry Vaculik, 6-7 and only a sophomore. Seume's teammate at Omaha Westside, Rick Walstrom. North Platte's Charles Peterson, Bill Roach of Beatrice, and Kearney junior, Tom Spongberg.
Other deserving Honor Roll players: Reg Gast, Rick Samuelson and Jack Ball-Lincoln East, Tom Westover and Terry Novak-Lincoln NE, Fred Anzures-Boys Town, Mike Fultz-Lincoln High (remember him?), J.J. Collins-Omaha Tech, Dennis Forrest-Omaha Central, Kirk Lacy-Scottsbluff, Mike Scanlon-Omaha NW, Jay Wheeler-Omaha Rummel.
Many of you will remember that Papillion's Mike Heck went on to play for Creighton University after being recruited by over 100 colleges. Heck led the Creighton freshman team his 1st season there and played in every game as a sophomore for the 23-7 Bluejays, who made the NCAA Tournament that year. In 1974, Creighton opened the season with a 74-68 win over North Dakota. Big Gentle Mike played the best game of his life that magic evening, scoring 24 points while grabbing 9 rebounds. A few days later, on the morning of December 6th, 1974, Mike's roomie, Dan Eberle went to wake him up after hearing his alarm go off at 8:15 AM. Mike Heck would not respond, and never woke up again, passing away at the age of 20 with an apparent cardiac disorder. Heck never felt bad the days leading up to that fateful morning on the campus of Creighton University.
An autopsy report stated that Mike died of a cardiac standstill with no previous condition present. 4 other outstanding basketball figures suffered the same fate in years to follow. Len Bias of Maryland and the Boston Celtics, Hank Gathers-Loyala/Marymount, Reggie Lewis of the Boston Celtics, and the greatest shooter that ever lived, Pistol Pete Maravich of LSU and New Orleans.
Mike Heck deserves to be mentioned along side of these names in my opinion. Only God knows what Big Mike would have accomplished at Creighton in the 2 seasons ahead of him. Mike's heart was just too big for his tall, slim frame I guess. But then again, that was the same heart that drove him to the unmatched success he enjoyed during his far too short young life on the basketball court.
RIP Mike Heck, we shall never forget you, man. Jam one for us up there, will ya?