It's been a rough eight months for Iowa basketball legends. Roy Marble, Sr., Iowa's all-time leading scorer, passed away in September after a battle with brain cancer. John Johnson, a former All-American who still holds the record for the two highest-scoring games in Iowa history (49 against Northwestern in 1970, 46 against UW-Milwaukee in 1968), died in January of this year. And now comes news that Murray Wier, an All-American and one of Iowa's best-ever scorers, passed away earlier today.
A sad day as we learn of the passing of one of the all-time greats, Murray Wier. Our condolences to the Wier family. pic.twitter.com/iGorp30tIS— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) April 6, 2016
Wier starred on some high-flying -- and hugely successful -- Iowa teams immediately after World War II. He was a four-year starter for Pops Harrison's Iowa teams that went 58-16 during his career, including just two losses at the Field House, Iowa's raucous home court. Iowa won a Big Ten championship in Wier's first season (1945), their first-ever solo Big Ten title. In his first game for Iowa, Wier scored 15 points -- a record for freshman debutantes that lasted until Aaron White scored 19 points in his Hawkeye debut.
Iowa finished 3rd, 6th, and 2nd in Wier's remaining seasons at Iowa. As a senior in 1947-48 Wier elevated his play to heights that few (if any) Iowa players have ever matched:
As a senior, Wier became the first officially recognized Division I NCAA scoring leader and Iowa's first-ever consensus first-team All-American, averaging 21 points per game. He set a then-Big Ten record of 272 points in conference play, earning first-team all-league and team Most Valuable Player accolades in 1948. Additionally, Wier is one of only three Hawkeyes to earn the Chicago Tribune's trophy as the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player. Wier averaged 8.4 points as a sophomore and a team-best 15.1 points as a junior.
Wier was Iowa's first-ever consensus first-team All-American and still one of just two Iowa players to ever attain that distinction (Charles "Chuck" Darling in 1952 is the only other Hawkeye in that club). He was the first (and still only) Iowa player to lead the NCAA in scoring. And he was the first (of only three) Iowa player to win the Big Ten MVP/Player of the Year award. (Charles Darling and Sam Williams are the only other two Iowa players to win that award.) He had an utterly remarkable Iowa career, even if it happened decades before most current fans were born.
Fortunately, Terry Wier, one of Murray Wier's sons, has uploaded a YouTube clip highlighting Weir's career that's a lot of fun:
The best part of the clip is the actual game footage, which is a blast. The game itself looks wildly different than it does today and the different fashions, funny-looking lane under the basket, and the lack of a three-point line is only part of it. Wier's shooting stroke is something that no coach would ever teach -- but it was undeniably effective. And those underhanded free throw attempts! It's just a lot of fun to get a glimpse of the way basketball was played 70 years ago.
Our condolences to Wier's family and friends for this sad loss.