Editor’s note: This is the fourth of 10 stories detailing the exploits of players and coaches nominated for SIU’s All-Century basketball team.
Some of the most dynamic players in SIU basketball history competed during the 1970s, when the Salukis went from Midwestern Conference champions to Division I independents, to the Missouri Valley Conference.
Coach Paul Lambert’s first club finished 13-10 overall but 7-1 in the Midwestern Conference, good enough for first place. Forward Greg Starrick, a Marion native and All-Century Team nominee who is now part of the Saluki Radio Network broadcasting team with Mike Reis, scored 515 of his 1,428 career points that season. He went on to become the Salukis’ fourth NBA draft pick in school history, going to the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 128th overall selection in the ninth round of the 1972 event.
The Salukis went independent for three seasons before joining the MVC in 1975, finishing tied for third or better in four of their first five seasons there.
Joe C. Merriweather (1973-75), ten-year NBA player Mike Glenn and the Abrams brothers, Corky and Wayne, were among the standouts of the mid-to-late 1970s.
Merriweather, who recently passed away, still ranks among SIU’s all-time leaders with 1,536 career points (eighth all-time) and 1,005 rebounds (third). He played 11 years in the NBA with four different teams: Buffalo, New York, Atlanta and Milwaukee.
Glenn, who played 10 years in the NBA, still ranks among the top 10 all-time in points and assists. One of six SIU Hall of Fame picks from the decade, Glenn spurned North Carolina’s Dean Smith to go to SIU and join his friend, Corky Abrams, in Carbondale.
Part of SIU’s first NCAA tournament team in 1977, Glenn, nicknamed “Stinger,” had a sweet mid-range jump shot for a 6-foot-2 guard and played all 80 minutes in the Salukis’ games against Arizona and Wake Forest.
The Salukis finished 22-7 in the Sweet 16 (the tournament was the last to be unseeded and had 32 teams) after they were beaten by Wake Forest, 86-81, in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Glenn scored 1,878 career points, third all-time at SIU, and handed out 334 assists, 10th all-time.
Corky Abrams, the older of the two brothers from Atlanta, played in 106 games between 1974-77 and scored 1,035 points with 735 rebounds and 251 assists.
Wayne Abrams, nicknamed the “Rubber Band Man” because of his lanky 6-6, 175-pound frame, is still among the top 20 all-time in points (1,426, 15th) and rebounds (557, 18th). Only Bryan Mullins, another likely Hall of Famer, has more assists (509) than Abrams (465).
Another nominee, forward Gary Wilson, led SIU in rebounding all four years between 1975-79. The Columbus, Ga., native scored 1,513 career points (10th all-time) and grabbed 841 rebounds (seventh all-time).
Two other nominees played with Wilson, Barry Smith (1977-80) and Milt Huggins (1975-79). Smith scored 1,066 points and dished out 255 assists in 104 games. Huggins scored 1,074 points with the Salukis and was taken in the ninth round of the 1979 NBA draft by the New Orleans Jazz.
Nate Hawthorne (1971-73) played three years in the NBA after a Hall of Fame career with the Salukis. The Mount Vernon native scored 1,001 points in his three-year career in Carbondale, helping SIU win the Midwestern Conference title in 1971. Hawthorne scored 882 points in one season with the Los Angeles Lakers and two with Phoenix.
Voting for the All-Century Team begins Nov. 2 at www.siusalukis.com. The team is expected to be honored sometime in February.
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