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WICHITA, Kansas — It’s been 48 years since Wichita State made it to a Final Four. Among the biggest fans of this year’s Western Region champions are players from that historic squad.
“It was joy,” said Shocker great Dave Stallworth about watching the Shockers run to Atlanta. “It was a real joy.”
“It’s an exciting place to be at this time watching these kids excel like this,” said Bob Powers.
Both Powers and Stallworth were on the 1964-65 team. Both players didn’t make the trip to Portland for the Final Four because of eligibility concerns.
But both think the 1964-65 team could have won the national championship if Stallworth and Shocker-great Nate Bowman were allowed to play.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind,” said Powers.
“I think we would have,” said Stallworth. “We had three starters that didn’t play.”
The 60s was a far different era for college hoops. Many teams in the nation were still refusing to play black players.
The 1964-65 team was Wichita State’s first to play five black players at one time. While the shattering of the racial barrier went nearly unnoticed at the time in Kansas, it was a different situation on the road.
Fans in some cities would attempt to pelt the team with rocks when they’d try to enter a visiting arena.
“It was tough during those times,” said Stallworth.
“I remember several times having to get down in a crash position on the way out of there so nobody would put a rock through the window,” said Powers.
“I was too young or too stupid to know, to realize, to understand,” added Stallworth. “The only thing I was concerned about was playing basketball.”
Now the only concern of both former Shockers is watching this year’s team try to outdo their performance in 1965.
Both men believe the Shockers have a solid shot at a national championship.
“I think we would have had a very good chance of winning,” said Powers.
“I’m a Shocker for life,” said Stallworth.