The Post-Journal

Clark's Record At Syracuse Still Stands

Syracuse begins defense of its men's national basketball championship Monday when the Orangemen open the season against Charlotte. That's the first regulation game for Syracuse since it won its first national title in April and the key to the Orangemen's success was the play of freshman Carmelo Anthony, who is now an NBA rookie playing for the Denver Nuggets.At Syracuse, Anthony saved his best for his next-to-last college game when he scored 33 points in a Final Four semifinal win over Texas. That total is only one point away from the school record for scoring in an NCAA Tournament game.

Who holds the record? There have been some great scorers at Syracuse, such as Dave Bing, Roosevelt Bouie, John Wallace, Dwayne Washington and Lawrence Moten to name a few. But none of them scored 34 points in an NCAA Tournament game.

The player who did was a member of the first Syracuse team to ever qualify for the NCAAs and he is a Frewsburg Central School graduate.

On March 15, 1957 at the Palestra in Philadelphia, Gary Clark of Frewsburg scored 34 points in Syracuse's 75-71 win over Lafayette in the East Regional semifinals and no one has surpassed that mark since.

Last April at his home in North Port, Fla., Clark watched on television as Carmelo came up one point short of his record.

"I thought Anthony was going to beat it," Clark said in a telephone interview earlier this week. "I find it kind of funny that no one has broken it."

Clark got off to a good start in the 1957 NCAA Tournament when he recorded a team-leading 26 points, including 12-of-16 from the field and 11 rebounds in an 82-76 win over Connecticut in the Eastern Regional quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden. And he piled up those numbers despite spending a lot of time on the bench after he picked up his fourth foul with 14 minutes left to play.

"I was sort of aggressive," he said with a laugh.

After Clark's record-setting 34 point game against Lafayette, the Orangemen met No.1-ranked North Carolina in the East Regional title game and lost 67-58, as Clark was held to 11 points.

"They had a great zone defense, but I remember we out-rebounded them and had more field goals, but they took us at the foul line," Clark said. "They had more foul shots."

Syracuse had a 24-17 advantage in field goals, but at the foul line North Carolina was 33-for-45 while the Orangeman were 10-for-33.

North Carolina advanced to the Final Four and won the national championship by defeating Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain in triple overtime in the title game to finish the season at 32-0.

In the book Tales from the Syracuse Hardwood by Bud Poliquin one of Clark's teammates, Vinnie Cohen, said he thought that 1956-57 Syracuse team would have won the national title if Jim Brown had remained on the team. The eventual NFL star averaged 13.1 points per game as a non-starter in his sophomore and juniors seasons. But Cohen explained there was an unwritten and unspoken rule in college basketball at the time that a team would have no more than two black starters. Cohen and Manny Breland were the two black starters for Syracuse. Brown didn't want to be a sixth man again and quit.

"I never knew that," Clark said about Brown's reason for quitting, "That's how naive I was back then."

But Clark did discover Brown was a very good basketball player after two seasons of playing with him.

"He was a good rebounder and was really a fairly decent shot for being muscle-bound like he was," he said.

Even though Clark's final Syracuse team was the first to qualify for the NCAA Tournament he recalled it wasn't as big a deal as now. That was long before Selection Sunday celebrations.

"I think it was more casual then," he said. "Personally, I never even thought about it."

Clark was born in Little Valley and as a youngster moved to Frewsburg where he became a high school standout.

"We had a pretty good team for four years, we lost like six games," said Clark, who also recalled playing at Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium one year.

He was eventually offered a scholarship to Syracuse after the Orangemen's freshman coach saw Clark play in a Frewsburg road game.

"I'm not sure how he did find out about me, if it was from alumni or what," Clark said "He just came down and saw me and gave me a scholarship (offer)."

Clark didn't recall any other colleges pursuing him, so "I was glad to be asked."

And he wasn't very familiar with Syracuse University.

"I didn't know much about it, the basketball program or anything," he said.

And the basketball program was nothing like now.

"It ended up going big time and it happened after I got out," he said. "When we played they played Niagara and Canisius and teams around the area. It's big business now. It's still a sport, but it's really more business than sport."

Clark got off to a good start at Syracuse and recalled, "We had a great freshman team. I think we lost three games."

The 6-foot-4 forward moved to varsity as a sophomore and was a starter through his senior year. The Orangemen had records of 10-11, 14-8, and 18-7 in Clark's three seasons and he averaged 17.7 points per game as a senior.

Then basketball almost became his occupation when the New York Knicks of the NBA drafted him and he spent two weeks in their pre-season camp.

"I went down there and tried out. They were going to go on the road and I decided I really thought I shouldn't do that," Clark said. His thoughts were, "I should come back home and play with an AAU team and get a job."

He did come back to Frewsburg, but wasn't around long. He was drafted into the Army and ended up playing basketball on the Fort Lee, Va., team and earned All-Army honors.

After two years in the service, Clark returned to the area and continued working for Chautauqua National Bank, where he was employed before being drafted. Clark eventually took courses at the American Institute of Banking and remained in the business for 37 years before retiring from Marine Midland in 1995.

Clark moved to Florida in 1997 where he spends his time golfing, bowling, and "enjoying the sunshine."

He catches an occasional Syracuse game on television and took a lot of satisfaction when Syracuse won its first national title in April.

"I felt great. It felt terrific that they finally won after all the years of trying and coming so close," Clark said.

And the Orangemen were able to do it because Anthony came close to breaking Clark's NCAA school scoring record.

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