Column by MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Bob Clousson had to be one of the smallest centers in college basketball in the late 1950’s.
But the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Clarksburg native, selected from the student body, lettered at West Virginia University in 1957-58-59.
He worked his way up into the starting job as a senior and, playing against centers much taller and heavier, helped the Mountaineers to within two points of the National Championship.
That great team, led by junior superstar Jerry West, dropped a heart-breaking 71-70 decision to California in the title tussle in the 1959 finale at Louisville, KY.
While the 29-5 record by Coach Fred Schaus’ team remains the best percentage-wise, the 2009-10 team had the winningest at 31-7 reaching the Final Four.
Clousson, now 75, has been living in Sarasota, Fla., since 1999 with wife Darlene. They have two sons, Troy 47 and Dan 45. There also are two grown grandsons, Jeff 21 and Matt 18.
Besides a 29-5 record in ’59, Clousson was a contributor to 25-5 and 26-2 marks in his sophomore and junior seasons.
Those three together add up to an amazing 80-12 record — possibly the best consecutive trio in the program’s history.
Clousson hasn’t forgotten that in the contest with California he made five goals in as many attempts and two free throws in two tries for a perfect 12 points.
But it was a 74-72 victory against highly ranked Western Kentucky in 1959 that sticks out in his mind most.
“We had decided that Jerry West was going to take the last shot with the score tied,” Clousson recalled. “But it fell short and I tipped it in.
“So that was a big thrill for me. Western Kentucky had a 6-10 center and their team was strong.”
Clousson, who started every game as the No. 1 center in ’59, played in 82 games. For his three years, he scored 435 points and pulled down 380 rebounds. He made 147 of 308 field goal attempts (47.7 percent) and 141 of 218 free throws (64.7 percent) and had 43 assists.
Clousson was given a Board of Governors grant as a sophomore, then Schaus put him on a full scholarship before his junior season started.
He said, “Playing with Jerry West was a delightful experience. You knew you were playing with one of the greatest ever to play the game. You knew he could make the big plays.
“You knew you could count on him. He was our go-to guy. But we all played well together. That’s why we were so successful. Playing so well as a team was our strongest point.”
Clousson, who had starred at Washington Irving High in Clarksburg, was a great admirer of Coach Schaus. “He told me I was an aggressive player, and that took me a long way,” he stated.
“I thought Fred was the greatest person in the world. He was a great coach and a gentleman.”
Clousson had Hot Rod Hundley as a teammate in 1957. “He certainly had talent,” he said of the then Clown Prince of College Basketball. “But he wanted to have fun.”