Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Sports column

June 24, 2014

Don Vincent was standout on WVU’s only No. 1 basketball team

MORGANTOWN — Don Vincent of nearby Shinnston was an outstanding guard on the most successful men’s basketball team in West Virginia University’s history.

That was in 1957-58 when the Mountaineers lost only to Duke by just four points in Durham, N.C. and finished the regular season with a 26-1 record and ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Unfortunately, Vincent broke a leg in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament at Richmond Va. That was an 81-76 win against home-standing University of Richmond.

WVU then defeated William and Mary for the title without Vincent. But the Mountaineers were shockingly upset by Manhattan 89-84 in the first round of that year’s NCAA Tournament in Madison Square Garden.

During that WVU Golden Era of basketball, this 70-year veteran of sports reporting thought Vincent and Joedy Gardner were the best pair of backcourt performers I’ve ever seen in college competition.

Both were standouts not only in 1957-58 as seniors but also on teams of the previous two varsity seasons that posted records of 21-9 and 25-5.

The incomparable guard Jerry West and forward Willie Akers, who are still best friends, were other starters on that 1957-58 team. But they both were untested newcomers to varsity competition as sophomores.

So both Vincent and Gardner were named captains along with All-America center Lloyd Sharrar. Both Sharrar and Gardner were recruited from close high schools in Pennsylvania.

We’re talking about extremely talented basketball players, many of whom are already members of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. A couple of them have yet to be elected to that shrine.

All were recruited and coached by the late Fred Schaus, himself an All-American here in the late 1940s. He returned to his alma mater and held the coaching reins from 1955-60.

Schaus’ six-year record 146-37 is the school’s best ever percentage-wise (79.8) and it ranks third in total victories. His teams also own the all-time record with six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

Don Vincent, who’s 79, lived at the late Ann DiNardi’s house on Beechurst Ave. So did Jerry West and several other basketball players.

It was just a stone’s throw from the old Field House (now Stansbury Hall), where the Mountaineers practiced and played home games.

“We all got along very well together,” Vincent recalled recently. “We also got close to our fans, many of whom traveled with us for games away from home.

“Those were truly good ole times.”

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound playmaker had an impressive set of statistics for his three-year career. Vincent played in 86 games, averaging 28.8 minutes per outing.

He made 316 field goals in 769 attempts (41.1 percent) and cashed 145 of 263 free throws (71.4) for 780 points. He also grabbed 379 rebounds and dished out 135 assists.

Don and wife Jean Vincent have been married for about 56 years. They have two grown children, son Brett and daughter Jane Linn Citro.

There are three grandchildren: Kyle Citro, Cole Vincent, and Ella Citro.

After graduating from WVU, Vincent taught at Bridgeport and Clarksburg Victory High School for about five years. Then he worked for the Hillyard Co. based in Missouri. Five years later he started selling automobiles in Clarksburg.

He has been retired for about 10 years and is now taking life easy.

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