Induction Year: 1984
Adolph Rupp saw Jackie Moreland play basketball twice in his junior season at Minden High School. A year later, he watched him lead a South team to a victory over the North in a national All-Star game at Murray, Ky.
“Give me Jackie Moreland and four other players,” Rupp said, “and I'll beat anybody in America. If I had him, I'd win the NCAA championship three years in a row.”
Rupp's Kentucky Wildcats won 17 Southeastern Conference championships and three NCAA titles before Moreland completed his high school eligibility, and a lot of people thought Moreland would go to the mecca of college basketball after he scored 5,030 points in high school play. But the recruiting competition was fierce.
Ken Loeffler of Texas A&M wanted him. So did Everett Case of North Carolina State.
“He can do it all” is an expression often applied to high school superstars – with the emphasis on the verb “can.” Many of them never got around to actually doing it. But Moreland did.
There was no national letter of intent at that time. The 6-7 blue-chipper signed conference letters with Kentucky of the Southeastern Conference, Texas A&M of the Southwest Conference and North Carolina State of the Atlantic Coast Conference. All three schools wound up with NCAA probations. ON Aug. 31, 1965 – a few weeks after he was voted Louisiana's “Mr. Basketball” in the state's All-Star game – Moreland came to Shreveport for a press conference announcing his plans to attend Centenary College, which was lining up a big-time schedule and moving its games to Hirsch Youth Center. But before he got back to Minden, he was intercepted by a delegation from North Carolina State and was on his way to Raleigh, N.C.
It was Moreland, not a football player, who kept Paul “Bear” Bryant's Texas A&M team out of the Cotton Bowl after the Aggies won the Southwest Conference. Centenary was the only school involved that didn't feel the wrath of the NCAA, and Gents coach F.H. Delaney was always at a loss to explain how his school came out of it unblemished.
“I imagine we were as guilty as anybody else,” Delaney recalled when Moreland was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1984. “I think Jack became a pawn in that game. The NCAA wanted to get fellows like Rupp, Loeffler and Case, and he just happened to be the player involved.”
Ruled ineligible at North Carolina State, Moreland spent on year at the Raleigh school as the nation's premier intramural basketball player. The school that eventually got him on the rebound was Louisiana Tech.
“He was a franchise player,” recalled Tech coach Cecil Crowley in 1984. “When he came out of high school, I wanted him worse than any player I ever saw.”
It wasn't the first time Moreland was ruled ineligible. As a high school freshman, he was sidelined for one semester after transferring from Class C Harris to Class AA Minden.
Moreland was more than just a great basketball player at Minden High. He was a professional prospect in baseball, turning down a $30,000 bonus offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates, and came within one “B” of a perfect “Straight A” record in the classroom.
In three years at Louisiana Tech, he set school records with 1,491points and 1,124 rebounds. He was selected to the United Press International small-college All-America team as a junior, and won All-Gulf States Conference honors three years in a row.
“Jackie could've had a much higher scoring average,” said Crowley, “but he was so unselfish. He was more interested in passing off to his teammates so they might score or make a big play.”
Although Moreland wasn't really trying to score a lot of points, he scored 53 in a high school game against Arkansas Tech.
In his first season at Tech, the Bulldogs snapped Mississippi State's 18-game home court winning streak.
The Detroit Pistons picked him in the first round of the 1960 National Basketball Association draft, and he played five years in the NBA and three more with the New Orleans Bucs of the American Basketball Association.
In 1971, Jackie Moreland learned that he had inoperable cancer. He made a trip back to Minden, visiting with his high school coach, Cleve Strong.
“He told me then that he knew what he faced,” Strong recalled later. “And he was ready.”
On Dec. 15, 1971, a fund was set up by Crowley, Louisiana Tech basketball coach Scotty Robertson and Ruston businessman Dick Ambrose to help defray Moreland's medical expenses.
He died four days later, at the age of 33.
“Class. That's one word I think of when I think of Jackie Moreland,” long-time friend Shorty Long said in 1984. “He was truly All-American every way.”
Twenty years after his death, only four high school basketball players have scored more than 5,000 points. All of them played in Louisiana, three of them at Class B and Class C schools. The other was Jack Wade Moreland.
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