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    Then & Now: Chuck Jura

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    Then & Now: Chuck Jura

    Compiled By Dave Brandon

    (Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations)

    Chuck%20Jura.jpgNebraska

    Basketball Hall of Famer Chuck Jura played for the

    Huskers from 1970-1972, and is fourteenth in all-time

    scoring at Nebraska (1,255 points). The 6'10" Jura also

    ranks in the top ten in career scoring average, field

    goal percentage, rebounds, and rebound average. And,

    besides being All-Big 8 on the court, Jura also excelled

    in the classroom while at Nebraska, where he enjoyed

    All-Big 8 accolades. 

    Jura was

    a third-round draft pick of the Chicago Bulls, and

    recently joined HHC for our latest Sunday version of

    "Then & Now."

    HHC: Chuck,

    thanks a lot for taking a trip down memory lane with

    us. 

    CJ: Not a

    problem, glad to talk with you.

    HHC: Before arriving at NU, you starred in

    basketball at Schuyler, Nebraska. Do you feel that

    playing at that small of a level prepared you well for

    the Big 8, or did most of your growing occur at

    Nebraska?

    CJ: I would say that to a certain extent, high

    school prepared me well, because at that time, there

    were some good players in the state. Tom Kropp, Dwayne

    Dillard and Bob Gratopp out of Omaha Central, and Sam

    Martin in Pawnee City were just a few of the good

    players at that time who went on to play Division One

    ball. But today, it’s a completely different game.

    Players are just so much bigger, stronger, and more

    athletic, so maybe today it wouldn’t have prepared me as

    well.

    HHC: Who else recruited you besides

    Nebraska, and was there ever any doubt where you'd end

    up?

    CJ: It came down to Nebraska, Missouri,

    LSU, Washington, and Seattle University. I really liked

    the Pacific Northwest, but in the end, it came down to

    Nebraska.

    In those

    days, they actually had you signed as far as the

    conferences were intended. I was down to Missouri and

    Nebraska after I signed my Big 8 letter of intent, and

    then signed with Nebraska.

    I always

    really liked Norm Stewart, and we still talk. Both of my

    brother’s live in Missouri, actually. But yeah, Joe

    Cipriano and I got along really well, and that was the

    man reason I came to Nebraska. 

    HHC: Since most of our readers have no

    recollection of Joe Cipriano, describe him in your own

    words, both as a coach and a person.

    CJ: Joe

    Cipriano was one of a kind. He was probably not the

    greatest X’s and O’s man, but he was a very good

    recruiter and very personable as a coach. He was someone

    who cared about you as a person, and I think that’s one

    of the things that led to my success. I almost owe my

    success to the fact that he was patient with a 6’10”

    white kid out of Schuyler, Nebraska.

    HHC: How did he earn the nickname

    "Slippery Joe?"

    CJ: He was a character, man. He used to do all

    kinds of stuff. There was a game one time, and in those

    days they had, believe it or not, at the end of the

    game, a starter pistol on the scorers table to announce

    the commencement. But I can remember Joe, and your not

    going to believe this, but he went over to the referees

    and was mad one time, and fired the pistol to get their

    attention during the game. That happened in ’68 or ’70.

    Joe was

    a tremendous basketball player, too. He was a very quick

    point-guard and played at Idaho, I believe, or somewhere

    in the northwest. I think that’s where the name comes

    from. I remember that he and the coaches used to take

    their suits off some days and come out and play against

    us, and it seemed like they never played besides that,

    but they’d come out and pass it around and shoot. He was

    just a character. 

    HHC: We always

    talk about Danny Nee being colorful, but he sounds

    pretty colorful in his own right, huh?

    CJ: Definitely. Another thing Cipriano did was

    one time at KU, playing in front of a sold out crowd,

    (laughs) he slipped vampire teeth in his mouth, and the

    students were on him, and he turned around and acted

    like a vampire, and they went nuts on him. (Laughs) They

    absolutely loved him everywhere he went. Just a

    character, that’s all I can say.

    HHC: (Laughs) How would you describe Chuck

    Jura, both as an individual player and a teammate?

    CJ: To be perfectly honest, when we were

    at Nebraska, I wasn’t very good, and we really didn’t

    come to our potential. We had some tremendous players,

    like Al Nissen, who is now a doctor, and was the last

    cut with the KC Kings in 1972. Nissen was actually a

    walk-on at Nebraska before that. Then, there was Leroy

    Chalk and Marvin Stewart, but we just never put it

    together as a team, and for that, I feel very

    unfortunate.

    I became

    a much better player after Nebraska when I got to Italy,

    because it was a business then and I knew what I had to

    do. I had a coach who put it in straight terms, and told

    me either you performed, or you went home. I spent a lot

    of time shooting hook shots at Nebraska, to answer what

    kind of a player I was there, and when I got to Europe,

    I turned around and faced up a lot more. That is what I

    should have done while I was at Nebraska, but I didn’t,

    and instead shot hooks even though I couldn’t make one

    to save my life.

    HHC: In your first season of 1969-1970,

    you guys went 16-9, and finished third in the Big 8.

    Talk to us about some of your teammates, and describe

    them as players, as most people just know them from a

    name in the media guide.

    CJ: Marvin Stewart got drafted in the 2nd

    round by the 76ers and signed a contract, and would have

    been playing for a long time because he was a tremendous

    pure shooter, but he tore his knee up in training camp.

    Bob Gratopp was another great shooter, and went on to be

    a referee, although he’s since passed away,

    unfortunately. Another guy who passed away was Kenny

    Cauble, who played two years with us and later became a

    police officer. He was a long jumper and high jumper in

    addition to playing basketball. I think he high jumped

    6’8 or 6’9. We had a ton of individuals that had talent,

    but we just never put it together.

    HHC: 1970-1971 saw Nebraska go 18-8, yet

    no post-season. How difficult was it to make the

    post-season back then, and were you guys close that

    year?

    CJ: If it were like it was today, we’d

    have made the dance, that wasn’t the problem. In those

    days, the first place team in the Big 8 went to the

    NCAA’s, the second place went to the NIT. Two teams

    went, and that was it. That was just the way it was, and

    of course they expanded it later for the revenues and

    money, but in those days, if you check back and look at

    our senior year, we went 3-0 in the Big 8 and we went to

    KU and played against Bud Stallworth. There were 5

    seconds left on the clock, and we had a 65-65 ballgame.

    Our ball, out of bounds, Stallworth is fouled out on the

    bench, and we’re taking the ball out of bounds. However,

    we didn’t get the ball in bounds, as a Kansas player

    stole the ball, went the other way, and layed it in. We

    had their best player on the bench, waiting for

    overtime, and we lost it. That put us at 3-1, and then

    the next week, Oklahoma came into Lincoln and took us

    out. After that, it was really over. 

    HHC: Besides the post-season, talk about

    some other differences in the college game from back

    when you played?

    CJ: Well there’s the dress, of course. We

    had the short shorts and everybody wore one or two

    brands of tennis shoes. There was Converse, but no Nike.

    Also, when I started as a freshman, I couldn’t play in

    post-season, even though I played in 10 games. But, they

    didn’t count the stats.

    Back then, Bill Harrell was my freshman coach, and after

    Nebraska, he went onto Moorehead State. He actually

    wrote two books on defense, and is the only man in the

    history of college basketball to win a high school

    championship in both the state of Indiana and Kentucky.

    However, he was fishing a year ago, fell out of the boat

    after a heart attack, and drowned.  

    Here’s another difference for, you couldn’t dunk back

    then.

    HHC: That stinks for a 6’10” guy, huh?

    CJ: That’s for sure.

    HHC: (Laughs) Talk

    about what it was like playing in the Coliseum.

    CJ: It was unbelievable man. There were

    sparrows dive-bombing you when you’d lay it up in

    warm-ups. 

    HHC: What?!?

    CJ: Yes, I promise you. The place was

    always packed, sold out, and the fans were just amazing.

    We had bleachers on the sides, and it ran straight up,

    and the fans were just right on people. The place was

    electric.

    There was a memorable vendor that would sell ice cream

    bars, and people would throw him down a quarter, and

    he’d shoot the ice cream bar up. And he never missed, I

    swear. We’d sit around in the huddle with Cip, and watch

    this guy THROW it way up. It was amazing. 

    HHC: Your last year at Nebraska was

    1971-1972, and you earned All-Big 8 honors. However, the

    team finished just 14-12. Talk about what you remember

    from your senior season at Nebraska, and was it the most

    special one you had?

    CJ: No, it wasn’t, because everybody will tell

    you that we had tremendous talent, but we just didn’t

    put it together as a team. Our last year, we played some

    tough teams, like Iowa against “Downtown” Freddy Brown,

    who lit us up for 36 with no 3-point line. The guys we

    had, our starting guard Al Nissen, who had been a

    walk-on, was the last player cut by the Kings. They kept

    Mike D’Antoni, who is now the coach of the Phoenix Suns.

    My freshman year, Jim White, the golfer from Nebraska,

    he was on the team. He was a starting guard, before he

    transferred to Hastings.   

    HHC: So you

    underachieved. Does this fall on Joe Cipriano’s

    shoulders?

    CJ: No, I think the team cohesiveness was the

    problem. You have to understand, this was the 1960’s and

    1970’s when we had lots of individualism. The African

    American players were just coming into their own, as far

    as being able to express themselves. It was an

    interesting time to go to school. 

    HHC: After you

    graduated, you were drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the

    3rd round of the NBA draft. Talk about the excitement of

    being drafted, and what happened with the NBA?

    CJ: It was real exciting, except the fact the

    Chicago Bulls had a full roster of no cut players. Bob

    Love, Chet Walker, etc. So, getting drafted in the 3rd

    round meant small bonus, get cut, go to CBA. I wasn’t

    going to do that, so my agent introduced me to some

    people from Italy, and I signed there in 1972 and stayed

    for two years. Then, I fired my agent, and took

    everything over myself, and I played the next twelve

    years in Italy by myself. I played against Spencer

    Haywood, John Brown from the Bulls, Bob McAdoo, and Mike

    D’Antoni.

    HHC: And what

    has Chuck Jura been up to the last thirty years, and

    where is he at today, both personally and

    professionally?

    CJ: I’m retired, and living in Columbus,

    Nebraska. I have a son who plays at UNK, and he’s a

    junior, so I follow him at UNK. That’s about it.

    After

    basketball, I had a situation involving investments,

    where I owned some investments like a few Pizza Hut’s,

    motels, and stuff, but I sold those and am now retired.

    I still

    play basketball, actually. We just won the world

    championships for players 55 and over in Canada this

    July.

    HHC: Really?

    CJ: Yes. And four years ago, I went to

    Melbourne, Australia, where we won the world

    championships for 50 and over. I play with a team out of

    Chicago. 

    HHC: We hope

    we are still that active at your age.

    CJ: You calling me old?

    HHC: (Laughs) Of course not. Chuck, thanks

    a lot for taking the time to join us, and will you be

    willing to take e-mails from the readers at

    [email protected] if we set it up and

    tell you how to check it?

    CJ: Yeah, I don’t have a problem with

    that; I’d love to hear from some fans. And thank you for

    calling.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">

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