This could start with a, “Once Upon a Time…”
Jim Nicholson was a 6-foot-6 center at Saint Louis in 1966. In a chaotic basketball season that saw mass forfeitures across the then blended Interscholastic League of Honolulu, players were banned almost across the board for breaking a rule about offseason participation in non-school leagues.
The late, great Bill Kwon chronicled the sad circus. (Click twice on the photo below to read the column.)
Today, there are leagues for youths like never before from prep-age divisions down to 4th grade and younger. There are still rules about who can coach his or her varsity/JV players, and how many are allowed on a coach’s offseason team, but there is no mandate that penalized teams and players.
However, back in ’66… you played in the Mormon League after the school year began? Ineligible. When this rule was enforced, in all, teams forfeited 36 games. Saint Louis forfeited three games early in the season. By the time Nicholson got on the court to play Mid-Pacific on Feb. 5, he was apparently ready to do something historic.
He scored 60 points, which is believed to still be a statewide single-game record. It was a rout, a 102-36 runaway that begs many questions. Here are a few.
>> Why was Nicholson still in the game with his team ahead 50-13 at halftime? The boxscore shows 14 Crusaders got playing time.
>> Was MPI one of the teams that turned in teams that were using players who had broken the rule? Is that what incited Saint Louis?
Whatever the case, Coach Walter Wong left Nicholson in the game and he scored 44 of his 60 after intermission. In fact, the game report notes that Nicholson “dunked 10 field goals in each of the last two quarters.” That’s 20 dunks in the second half.
1. Who has that kind of energy in the second half? Twenty dunks.
2. A dunk isn’t just two points. It sends a message. It’s an act of passion and athleticism, power and grace. Sixty points is incredible, but 20 dunks is sheer power, and perhaps a little angry.
There’s much more to what happened on Feb. 5, 1966. But if there’s a 60-point club, Nicholson is there. He is alone.
A 50- or 40-point club includes many more players of the past and present. Sam Johnson of Moanalua hit the 40-point mark in a state semifinal game against Punahou. He went on to play basketball and football at Hawaii. Brian Clark, a 6-6 senior, poured in 44 points against Waialua on Feb. 16, 1986. Clark finished the season with a 28.9 scoring average, breaking Johnson’s previous mark, and it is a record that still stands. Perhaps equally impressive, according to the story penned by Curtis Murayama, Clark averaged nearly 12 rebounds per game and shot 84 percent from the free-throw line.
For comparison, the current state leader in scoring is Kameron Ng of St. Francis, who is scoring 23 ppg and also shooting 84 percent at the foul line.
Anecdotes and memories can be hard to come by, but when we get more feedback, maybe a layer or two will be added to this chapter of prep basketball history in Hawaii. Longtime scribe and BIIF sports historian Bobby Command recalls John Kaohimaunu of Parker scored 52 points in a loss to Hawaii Prep during the ’86 season. Matt Waugh of Henry Opukahaia pumped in 40 one night in the late ’80s.
Kahea Schuckert of Honokaa scored somewhere around 53 points in a game during the 1990s. Aloha Salem, a role player at Konawaena a few seasons back, got hot one night from the arc and scored 45 points.
The final chapters of the 1966 season ended merrily at Kalaepohaku. Saint Louis bounced back from those three early forfeits to win the ILH and state titles.
Kudos to our resident mad librarian, Jerry Company, for searching the vault for these articles of a half-century ago.