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Mahler: Meet Dartmouth’s One-Game Wonder

  • The 1943-44 Dartmouth College men’s basketball team, which lost the NCAA championship game. Everett Nordstrom (No. 5, back row, first from left) saw his only action for the Big Green. (Dartmouth College photograph)

    The 1943-44 Dartmouth College men’s basketball team, which lost the NCAA championship game. Everett Nordstrom (No. 5, back row, first from left) saw his only action for the Big Green. (Dartmouth College photograph)

  • Audley Brindley was an All-American for the 1943-44 Big Green. (Dartmouth College photograph)

    Audley Brindley was an All-American for the 1943-44 Big Green. (Dartmouth College photograph)

  • The 1943-44 Dartmouth College men’s basketball team, which lost the NCAA championship game. Everett Nordstrom (No. 5, back row, first from left) saw his only action for the Big Green. (Dartmouth College photograph)
  • Audley Brindley was an All-American for the 1943-44 Big Green. (Dartmouth College photograph)

Nearly 70 years before Kentucky and John Calipari popularized the concept of one-and-done in college basketball, there was Dartmouth College’s Everett Nordstrom. He was the original one-and-done guy.

And I’ll bet you never heard of him.

Our story begins on the basketball hardwood of Dartmouth. The 1943-44 season was a special one for the Big Green. Led by All-American guard Audley Brindley, Dartmouth was coming off a heady string of three straight years playing in the NCAA tournament — including an appearance in the NCAA title game two years earlier.

Fortified with Navy and Marine recruits out of the war years’ V-12 program, Dartmouth opened the season with a pair of Ivy League victories before dropping a 44-30 decision to Mitchell Field — a team made of Army Air Corps vets.

For the next three months after that, however, Dartmouth was unbeaten — rolling to 15 straight victories.

But the V-12 program that giveth, also taketh away. Without any concern for college basketball schedules, to say nothing of playoffs, the military program ran out in February, stripping Dartmouth of several players.

That left first-year coach Earl Brown looking to fill roster spots for departing players such as Larry Killick, Paul Campbell, Joe Fater, Lionel Baxter and John Monahan without much time to incorporate the new guys into the Dartmouth system.

In this case, however, the additions more than made up for the losses. One of those players was Dick McGuire, a star guard from St. John’s, sent to Hanover on the V-12 program. Also added to the roster was forward Bob Gale, who had starred for Cornell earlier that winter.

Following a practice game against Norton Co. of Worcester, Mass., the Big Green headed for the tournament. Coming off its seventh Eastern League championship, Dartmouth got past Catholic University in the first round of the NCAA tourney, with Brindley leading the way with 18 points. Gale chipped in with 17 and McGuire added eight.

Against the favored Big Ten champion Ohio State Buckeyes, it was Brindley’s 28 points that led the way, and Dartmouth advanced to the NCAA title game at Madison Square Garden.

Meanwhile, back on campus, Everett Nordstrom was having himself quite a basketball season in Alumni Gym as well. Playing for the Gile Dormitory, Nordstrom led his intramural squad to a 10-2 record and second place in the intramural standings. He also led the intramural field in scoring with 184 points, nearly 50 points better than the second-place scorer.

But with the intramural season over, Nordstrom put his sneakers away and went back to being a full-time Ivy League student.

Until the Dartmouth basketball team came calling.

Needing another player to fill the championship game roster, Brown turned to the intramural league high scorer.

Talk about a baptism under fire. And Brown did not hesitate to use Nordstrom in the title game. In fact, he came off the bench to make a key contribution late in regulation, setting up the tying basket that sent the game into overtime. There, however, the Big Green was outscored, 6-4, in the extra session to lose to Utah, 42-40. It was Dartmouth’s first loss to a college team all year.

In eight minutes of action, Nordstrom’s box score line showed neither a shot, nor a free throw; he had no personal fouls and no points.

But he had played. And in those eight minutes, Nordstrom had made NCAA history. There certainly may have been other players who have had a one-game varsity college career, but find me one who can say their only appearance came in the NCAA championship game.

In that way, Everett Nordstrom is truly college basketball’s ultimate one-and-done.

Don Mahler can be reached at dmahler@vnews.com or (603) 727-3225.