MACwood Squares is our summer reading series on the best athletes in Mid-American Conference sports history. This week features Western Michigan. Looking for your MAC school? Consult our schedule for other teams and please submit your nominees as well.
At first I was all, "jeez, I'm surprised I can't think of more WMU basketball players." Then I looked at the history. A sub-.500 record in MAC games. Was that normal? I then realized that only four teams in MAC history have all-time winning records in conference play: Bowling Green, Miami, OHIO, and Toledo. Okay, so WMU's not in terrible company. But for a long history their collection of MAC players falls into the category of brief yet memorable.
I've picked out a list of four, and admittedly maybe more oughta be considered, but these four stand out.
Manny Newsome (1961-64) — Before there was Kool, there was Manny. For a long time, actually. Newsome broke the scoring record by over 500 points in '64 and held it there for 46 years. And I suppose he's still there; his 1,787 career points looks tiny until you realize it was mostly done over three seasons, putting his 26.2 points per game as the highest in MAC history. He was named to three straight first-team All-MACs during his time, but overshadowed by the likes of Howard Komives, no NBA was in his future. Not that his life went to pieces; Newsome went onto receive his doctorate and spent a career in the college education business, serving as a VP for Florida Atlantic.
Paul Griffin (1972-76) — The leading rebounder in school history ranks up there as one of only 15 MAC players with a cool 1,000 points and 1,000 boards. He's also the most accomplished NBA player in Broncos history, playing seven years with the New Orleans Jazz and San Antonio Spurs. As a bench player he accrued 5.1 points and 5.5 rebounds in about 21 minutes per game.
Joe Reitz (2004-08) — Western's answer to Antonio Gates. Reitz ranks in the top five of WMU's scorers and rebounders but went onto play in the NFL as an offensive tackle. In three years he hasn't played in a game yet, but we all have a good feeling about this year, pending the lockout. Before his American footy days, Reitz earned a first-team All-MAC as a center, two second-teams, and the MAC record for most free throws made.
David Kool (2006-10) — And then you have the all-time leading scorer. Their horse for four years. Kool racked up 2,122 points, good for sixth all-time on the MAC career list. He earned an AP honorable mention in 2010 as well as the MAC POY that year and two first-team All-MACs for his trouble. What really brought his scoring up was his record-setting free throw shooting: his 89.0 percent tops everybody in conference history. He might've made it as a shooter in the NBA but decided to begin his coaching career right away and has been on the WMU coaching staff ever since his graduation.
We'll leave it at this four for now, but I'll hear arguments for anyone else, including: Ben Reed, Walker Russell, Gene Ford, Jim Havrilla and – if anyone out there remembers that far back – Don Boven and Bob Adams.
Who are your nominees for WMU's MACwood Squares? Comment below, tweet us at @HustleBelt or submit a FanPost making your case. The final nine will be revealed Friday.