Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, May 30, 2013

In remembrance of Cliff Meely

Lost amongst the chaos of the last few days was the news that Cliff Meely, possibly the greatest basketball player in this history of the University of Colorado, died Tuesday evening.  The 65 year old legend, a continuous fixture at games and practices long after his graduation, developed a blood infection, and died unexpectedly.
From: the BDC
Despite playing in an era where freshmen were ineligible to play, he put up three-year numbers that no one before or since has been able to match. Through three years of play in Black and Gold, he averaged a knee-buckling 24/12 (both CU records).

In his sophomore year (1968-69), his first in Boulder, he burst onto the scene, helping to lead the team to the program's last outright league title.

By his senior year, 1970-71, he was shattering scoring records, averaging 28/12 per game.  In Big-8 play alone that season, Meely dropped an astonishing 30.5 points per conference contest, including 47 against Oklahoma on Feb 13th - still the all-time, single game scoring record for a Buffalo.
"I did not really come to Colorado to score points: I came to win games. In the midst of doing that, I did not really think about it breaking records. Now that I look back on it, I think to myself 'Wow. Look what I accomplished during my career.' I just did what the team needed me to do to give us the best chance of winning."  (-link) 
He was named to the All-Big-8 First Team in each year on campus, with his triumphant senior campaign earning him First Team All-America honors.  Meely's coach, Sox Walseth (a legend in his own right), once said fondly of Cliff: "He is the most complete player I have ever coached." Accordingly, his number #20 hangs in the rafters of the CEC. 
"Whatever I did, I did it so our team could win. They retired my uniform, and that was a great honor. I don't decide how good I was compared to others. Somebody else will have to decide that." (-link)
Even to this day his accomplishments resonate with the fans, and it was no surprise that he was named as one of only five members of the All-Time Basketball Team last summer.
The crime of it all comes in the form of an oft repeated line from the past few hours: "I didn't see him play."  It seems that far too many passed through Boulder without seeing Mr Meely ply his trade on the hardwood, a gift reserved for those lucky thousands who filled Balch Fieldhouse during the late 60s and early 70s.  I only wish I could've joined them.

I think Coach Boyle said it best:
“I thought he was a true gentleman, and you look at the numbers and he was arguably the best player ever to play here . . . what I love is that he came to Boulder from Chicago and stayed there, made this his home. He loved the university; he was a special guy. This is a sad day. He went too early.” - link
Games this winter just wont be the same without his court-side presence.

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