Dwight "Bo" Lamar
Induction Year: 1984
Dwight “Bo” Lamar, who played a key role in Southwestern Louisiana’s jump from college division basketball to the big time (and big trouble with the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.), wasn’t the target of an intensive recruiting campaign as a high school senior.
Lamar was the third best prospect on the East High team in Columbus, Ohio, getting only two scholarship offers. The only reason USL coach Beryl Shipley recruited him was the possibility of a package deal including Ed Ratleff, who signed with Jerry Tarkanian of Long Beach State.
“I had seen them play three or four times, and I really wasn’t interested in Bo,” Shipley admitted. “But the principal and a few other people up there told me that Bo and Ratleff were pretty good friends, and signing Bo might give me a better shot at getting Ratleff. That’s how we wound up with him.”
The other blue-chipper on that East High team was Nick Connors, who signed with the University of Illinois.
“I used to play basketball from noon to midnight on the playgrounds,” Lamar recalled. “You had to be good to play that long. If you lose one on the playgrounds, you don’t get back on the court for an hour or so.”
The Cajuns already had a great senior guard in Marvin Winkler, who won Little All-America honors by averaging 25.6 points per game. But Lamar wasn’t far behind, averaging 22.8 to earn “Freshman of the Year” in the Gulf States Conference.
Three losses to North Louisiana opponents forced USL to share the GSC title with Louisiana Tech, a team built around 6-10 freshman Mike Green. The first one was at Ruston, where Green’s 20-footer from the corner gave Tech a 94-92 victory with two seconds remaining in overtime. Winkler scored 40 points and Lamar added 37 in that shootout.
The other two losses were USL’s last two games, 85-81 to Northwestern State at Lafayette’s Blackham Coliseum and 87-85 to Northeast Louisiana in Monroe. In that game, Roger Stockton’s fast break lay-up in the last 20 seconds forced the Cajuns to settle for a 16-10 record and share of the title with Tech.
The following year, Lamar didn’t have to share the spotlight with anybody and USL didn’t have to share the conference title. Lamar averaged 36 points per game to lead college division scorers and spark USL to a 25-4 record. The Cajuns were ranked No. 1 in college division basketball for much of the season, and finished third in the national playoffs.
A long-range bomber who considered himself open as soon as he crossed mid-court, Lamar set a school record with 62 points in a victory over Northeast Louisiana. He hit 26 of 48 field goal attempts that night, many of them from a range of 25 feet or more.
“If there had been a three-point shot in those days, he would’ve averaged 50 points a game,” Shipley said.
The Cajuns moved into the university division in 1971-72 and Lamar led the to another 25-4 season, winning the national scoring championship with an average of 36.3 points per game. That made him the first player ever to win the college division scoring title one year and the university division title the next year. USL won a berth in the 24-team NCAA tournament and beat Marshall 112-101 in the first round. But Louisville, in Denny Crum’s first season as the Cardinals’ head coach, handed the Cajuns an 88-84 setback thanks to splendid defense by Jim Price. He held Lamar to 14 field goals in 42 attempts.
In both of Lamar’s last two seasons, the Cajuns were ranked in the Top Ten in the final wire service polls—the best showing by a Louisiana team since the Bob Pettit Era at LSU in 1953-54.
As a senior in 1972-73, Lamar led USL back to the 24-team NCAA tournament and finished sixth in the nation in scoring. But the Cajuns needed a restraining order to get into the playoffs, because the NCAA accused the school of 125 rules violations. (Shipley’s response: “Was that all they could find?”)
The NCAA was cracking down on the little guys, with Louisiana Tech placed on probation for violations involving Green and Centenary getting a six-year probation for refusing to declare Robert Parish ineligible. Among others, Tarkanian accused the NCAA of selective enforcement—hanging smaller schools for overtime parking violations and letting the heavyweights get away with murder. Tarkanian became a primary target for the next two decades.
Many of the charges against USL involved Lamar and Roy Ebron, who followed him one year later. One of the stories involving Ebron was that he won a drawing for a new automobile at a Lafayette dealership the day after he arrived on campus. But the Cajuns managed to get into the NCAA tournament, and upset No. 7 Houston 101-89 in the first round. Then Kansas Stat scored a 66-63 victory over the Cajuns in the second round, using a zone defense to hold Lamar to 18 points.
What is the price of glory? For USL, it was the “death penalty,” as the NCAA shut down the basketball program for a couple of years.
In their last two years, Lamar and Ratleff became the only twosome from the same high school to win first-team All-American honors. Connors had to settle for a third-team berth.
Lamar’s career scoring average was 31.2 points per game, and he led the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 90-23 record in those four seasons. Their record in his last three seasons was 74-13, bettered only by UCLA during that span.
After his college career, Lamar played with several teams in the American Basketball Association. He also played with Buffalo, Indiana and the Lakers in the National Basketball Association. He returned to the Lafayette area after his playing career ended, and still lives there—providing color commentary for radio broadcasts of USL games.
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