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Don Vincent: a ‘Golden Era’ player enters WVU Hall of Fame

By Staff | Jun 10, 2016

West Virginia University just inducted seven former athletes or coaches into its Hall of Fame.

The newest members are Joby Foley (tennis), Dave Johnson (rifle), Damian Owens (basketball), Donnie Young (football coach), Grant Wiley (football), Charity Wachera (track and cross country) and Don Vincent (basketball).

All of them except Young and Vincent had record-setting careers as individuals . . . but their teams never played in national championship circles.

Vincent, whose statistics on a mediocre or losing team would never have been remembered by anybody except his children and grandchildren, played when people state-wide knew him because the Mountaineer teams were winning so often.

The 6-foot-2 guard was from Shinnston and his unselfish ways and quiet scoring were surpassed only by his usefulness in the Fred Schaus-coached, fullcourt pressure defenses the iconic coach loosed on West Virginia’s often startled opponents.

In his first two seasons under Schaus, Vincent failed to average 10 points a game. Then as a senior (1957-58) he was one of five players who scored in double figures, averaging 12.8 points before being felled by a broken leg in the Southern Conference tournament semifinals.

At the time Vincent was injured, the Mountaineers had lost only one game and were ranked No. 1 in the country, having risen to that status after beating Kentucky and defending national champion North Carolina in the 1957 Kentucky Invitational.

After winning the Southern Conference tournament, the Mountaineers entered the NCAA tournament still ranked No. 1 in the land.

The starters on that team were sophomore Jerry West (17.8 points), senior center Lloyd Sharrar (11.8 points), senior Joedy Gardner (12 points), junior Bobby Jo Smith (12.4 points) and Vincent.

Sharrar would never have landed a berth on an All-America second team if the Mountaineers hadn’t have waded through their schedule with only one loss. West was also on that same All-America second team.

Look at those scoring averages again.

All five of those players are in WVU’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

When Vincent went out so late in the season, there was no player able to move into the starting lineup and do the many things he did.

Guards Bucky Bolyard and Ronnie Retton were mostly disruptive defensive specialists in Schaus’ vaunted zone press. Butch Goode and Jim Warren played only sparingly. And Willie Akers and Bob Clousson were front court players without the valued quickness supplied by Vincent, Bolyard and Retton.

West Virginia averaged a fast-paced 86.9 points a game and had a scoring margin of 18.4 points in losing only to Duke before its 89-84 loss to Manhattan at New Yor”s Madison Square Garden in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The Kentucky Wildcats — Adolph Rupp’s “Fiddlin’ Five” — won the 1958 national championship . . . and West Virginia had beaten them, 77-70, in Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum to move to the country’s No.1 ranking.

Playing on a winning team got Vincent into WVU’s Hall of Fame; the same goes for Sharrar, Gardner, and Smith. Akers reached the same Hall of Fame as did Bolyard and Retton. How many colleges had eight players from just one team get into their athletic Hall of Fame?

Winning brings accolades. Mere individual statistics don’t.

Vincent didn’t average even 10 points a game for his three-year career . . . yet people know he deserves to be in the school’s Hall because of the remarkable teams he was an intricate part of during West Virginia’s “Golden Era.”