Thursday, February 19, 2009

Free Willie Humes

When I saw the recent ISU news release asking for nominees to the Idaho State Sports Hall of Fame, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to review some recent Bengal sports history, a passion of mine, and see if I could come up with some deserving nominees. So I started by reviewing the current list of inductees.

For some reason, it caught my eye that I didn't see the name of Willie Humes, one of the Bengals' all-time basketball greats, on the list. I went over the list a couple of different times just to make sure I wasn't missing something. I even went to the ISU Basketball Media Guide, which specifically calls out basketball players who have been inducted into the hall. No mention of Willie Humes anywhere.

I sent an email to ISU Sports Information Director Frank Mercogliano, who is on the road with the basketball team in Bozeman today, asking why I couldn't find Humes' name in the hall. He responded that he wasn't sure, but he'd heard something about him not graduating. I tried calling Frank's predecessor, the all-knowing Glenn Alford, but Glenn has apparently joined many of us in ditching our land-line phones, and I don't have a cell phone number for him. So Glenn, if you're reading this, give me a call and let me know why Willlie Humes is not in the ISU Sports Hall of Fame. In the mean time, I'll lay out the case for why he SHOULD be.

According to the news release seeking nominations, the requirements to be eligible for the hall include: a candidate must have attended Idaho State for at least one year (check) and excelled in at least one intercollegiate sport (check). Preference is given to those who have been out of school for at least 10 years (check). (Nowhere does it say the nominee must have graduated from Idaho State, been an Eagle Scout, or donated cash to the Bengal Foundation, all reasons, I presume, that Humes may not have been honored yet).

To say Willie Humes "excelled" at basketball at Idaho State would be akin to saying the United States has a minor economic problem these days. I arrived in Pocatello seven years after Humes ended his Bengal basketball career, but I didn't need to see him play to know he was a tremendous player. His numbers speak for themselves: all-time career scoring average leader, Humes' 31.5 average places him tenth in the career NCAA scoring list; he holds the top five single-game scoring marks at Idaho State, including three games over 51 points (his high was 53 against Montana State in 1971); a two-time All-Big Sky selection, the 6-1 guard was named to the Big Sky Conference's Silver Anniversary Team in 1987.

I'd say that's more than a Hall of Fame resume, that's retire-the-number, put-him-in-the-Ring- of-Honor material. Unless, of course, there was some off-the-court dishonor I'm just not aware of.
I've been googling trying to find out more about this mysterious former Bengal star. I can't find any evidence of whether he's still alive and if so, where he lives or what he's doing these days. I do know that just about every site on the Worldwide Web that lists the 1971 NBA draft shows that a Willie Humes from University of Idaho was taken in the sixth round by the Atlanta Hawks. But I'm pretty sure that's ISU's Humes who was drafted, not some Vandal imposter.

I also discovered Willie has another interesting link to this area. He was one of five Humes brothers who played basketball for Madison, Indiana High School. His older brother Larry was Mr. Basketball in Indiana in the early 1960s, and went on to star for two Division II national championship teams at Evansville in 1964 and 1965. There Larry played with Jerry Sloan, now coach of the Utah Jazz, and, in 1965, with Herb Williams, who later went on to become head coach of the Bengals.
In any event, if anybody has an insight into the mystery of why Willie Humes isn't in the ISU Hall of Fame, or where he might be today, I'd love to hear about it.

And My Other Nominee Is....

I did see Tyrone Buckman play, and I'm here to tell you that the 6-2 Chicago native was the best true PG I've seen in my 30 years of watching Idaho State basketball. Nobody got in the paint and created scoring opportunities for his teammates like the powerful Buckman. He holds every significant assist record in ISU basketball history, including most assists in a season and career, assist per game average and assists in a game -- an impressive 17 dimes against Weber State in 1991. He also wracked up 15 assists against Northern Arizona and 13 against Eastern Washington that same season. Tyrone was a true master of the point guard craft. He deserves a spot in the ISU Sports Hall of Fame.

--Brad B.

And thanks for being a Bengal fan -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.


Tom of Southwestern H.S. said...

I am from Willie Humes's home town of Madison, Indiana. I talked to Willie in December. He is a varsity assistant coach for Columbus East High School, also in southern Indiana. Willie is a great coach that really cares about the kids while having a head full of basketball knowledge. You are right, he belongs in the hall. He was a fantastic player in every level of basketball he played in. I can remember that nobody could guard Willie one on one. He had the moves and speed that would amaze even the best teams. He should be recognized for his accomplishments.

Anonymous said...

I am Olisa Humes. Willie's daughter and he did graduate from ISU. I am trying to gather any documenation about my father for a scrapbook I am making for his his 60th b-day in December can anyone help me with this? Your help would be greatly appreciated.