“One Last Hurrah”

Let’s hear one last hurrah for Tom Boerwinkle, the former U.T. center who died this past Tuesday at age 67.
According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, “Tennessee announced Boerwinkle passed away following a lengthy illness. He had been battling myelodysplastic syndromes, a form of leukemia.”
The basketball intelligentsia in 1963-64 thought Ray Mears was crazy to offer the then unknown player from Millersburg Military Academy in Millersburg, Ky., a scholarship to Tennessee (along with Ron Widby, Mac Petty, and Tom Hendrix, among others). Coaches weren’t exactly making the trip to Millersburg to see him play.
But Mears apparently saw something in the big guy he liked, and Boerwinkle became part of some of the great memories of Tennessee hoops.
“I’ve very definitely gotten more satisfaction out of watching him develop than any boy I’ve coached,” Mears said.
No one thought that Tom could play in the Southeastern Conference, but he did, earning All-SEC honors in 1967 and 1968, averaging a double-double each season, 10.2 points and 12.2 rebounds his junior season and 11.3 points and 15.2 rebounds his senior season. He wore No. 34 on his white home jersey and No. 35 on his orange road jersey.
When things were critical in Starkville, Miss., on March 6, 1967, the Vols needing a victory to win the SEC title, Boerwinkle stepped on the floor for the opening tip and played every minute, 55 in all, as the Vols and Bulldogs battled through three overtimes before Tennessee finally won 78-76 and captured their first SEC title since 1945.
The rap on Boerwinkle had been his endurance and his ability to get up and down the court, but he proved the doubters wrong, just as he would do throughout his collegiate and professional career.
No one thought that Tom could play 10 years in the NBA (168-78), being the fourth overall selection in the 1968 NBA draft, lining up night after night against the best the league had to offer in the pivot–Bill Russell, Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wes Unseld, and Nate Thurmond night after night–and end up with 4,596 career points, 5,745 rebounds, and 2,007 assists.
He had 37 rebounds against the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 8, 1970, an unheard-of figure then… and an unheard figure now.
Marvin West said it was a “phenomenal ascension, from where he was as a high school senior to where he finished.”
Boerwinkle was one fine player and one fine man, a definite Vol for Life, as we say now.
He silenced the doubters and made his mark on Tennessee hoops and in the pros.
Requiescat in pace, big guy.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

One thought on ““One Last Hurrah”

  1. Bobby Scott

    I still remember coach Aberdine guarding Tom with a broom, would beat him to death with that broom….also some of the football players, myself included, would sit in the stands and watch practice, What great memories!!!!!!!!Watch some great B ball players!!!!!!

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