As fast and hard as collegiate basketball players play and with the game being based on going full tilt after the basketball, it’s amazing these type accidents don’t happen more often.
Wayne Chism’s fall last night in the final moments of Tennessee’s 89-62 win over Louisiana was hard to watch and brought back memories of a couple of other similar incidents, one in February 1959 and the other in the early 1970s.
It was Feb. 23, nearly 49 years ago, that Auburn came to town with a 21-1 record, ranked No. 2 in the nation. They were running the famed “shuffle” offense, a defensive nightmare if there ever were one. It was a close game all the way.
Here’s how Ben Byrd (“The Basketball Vols”) described what happened.
“Midway in the second half, Tormohlen hit the deck after a spectacular collision with Auburn’s Rex Frederick, went into convulsions, and was taken to the hospital with a brain concussion.”
The crowd hushed, much as it did last night.
The Vol ended up winning the game, but Tormohlen missed his and the Vols’ season finale against Kentucky.
“Big Gene,” also called “Bumper,” joins Bernard King as the only Vol to average double figure points and boards over the course of his career. He went on to play for the St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks. He’s a member of the Indiana State basketball Hall of Fame.
Then there was Denton Jones, a highly regarded sharp-shooting prospect from Knoxville.
Sometime in Denton’s freshman season, Robert Montgomery Knight was in town for the UT coaching clinic, teaching toughness and using Vols to demonstrate. Here’s his story from the perspective of Marvin West.
Marvin noted there were two lines, one for players taking turns charging down the lane, the other for the unfortunates waiting under the goal to take the charge.
“Denton got a bad matchup,” Marvin said, “a larger teammate. The tractor ran over the bug. As I recall, Denton’s head hit first and bounced a few times on the Tartan. Trainers, doctors, Mears, and Vols all gathered around. It was a genuine mess, with possible convulsions. It was deathly quiet in Stokely. A loud ambulance came to the rescue.
“Thereafter, UT physicians would never clear Denton to resume combat. He was a good man lost for a dumb reason.”
Marvin had one final observation: “One of several good reasons to not like Knight.”

Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008