Then & Now: Jerry Shoecraft
Compiled By Dave Brandon
(Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations)
Shoecraft played at Nebraska from 1979-1982, and led the
Huskers in rebounding his senior season.
Shoecraft, a 6'5" small forward, was a high school
teammate of former Husker Jack Moore, and played a key
role in helping the Huskers to the 1980 NIT.
Shoecraft is our latest guest in this edition
of "Then & Now."
thanks for joining us. You played high school basketball
with Jack Moore at Muncie Central High School, and you
guys led your team to a state championship in your
senior season. How special was it to win a championship
in a basketball-crazed state like Indiana?
JS: It was
pretty awesome, because in Indiana, that state is known
for basketball. And, to win the state championship is
very difficult considering the Indianapolis school’s
usually dominated. Plus, the fact that we hadn’t won a
championship for fifteen years until that year was
HHC: Speaking of Indiana, is the state
really as crazy about basketball as they portray in
JS: Yeah, it
really is. Just as Nebraska is known for its high school
football and producing products from its programs,
Indiana is the same for basketball. It’s fascinating
when you watch the movie (Hoosiers) and see my high
school going against a smaller class school, and how the
small school beats the big school. That’s a great film.
HHC: So the
movie is based on your high school getting beat?
JS: Yeah, that
was our high school that got portrayed, because in
Indiana, it’s not Class A-D like in Nebraska. You have a
small school of 15 versus a school of 1,500 or so. So,
you have to play the big schools in order to win it, and
that’s how the movie showed my high school getting beat
by a small school. It showed that with will and
determination, a small school can overcome the odds.
brought you to Nebraska? Did you and Jack Moore agree to
go to a school together, or was it just coincidence?
JS: It was
more of a situation where Jack and I were best friends,
and he was getting a lot of offers. Nebraska was heavily
recruiting me, and at the end, some high school kids
wait too long before deciding, and he was in a situation
where he had some choices but had waited awhile. So, we
discussed it and decided we wanted to play together, so
we both got the chance to come to Nebraska as a packaged
deal and that’s what we did.
HHC: What had you heard about Nebraska
basketball before being recruited? Anything?
JS: It wasn’t
that I heard about the program, it’s just that when I
first came here the atmosphere was what sold me. Just
the people, the facilities, and it was a place that I
knew beyond basketball would give me an opportunity to
succeed in life. And that’s what sold me on signing with
great the Bob Devaney Sports Center was, and Nebraska
football had a wonderful tradition, but I thought it was
the atmosphere and people in Lincoln that I thought
would give me the opportunity to get out of a somewhat
negative atmosphere and elements in Indiana to give me a
chance to realize my dreams.
HHC: Describe Joe Cipriano in your own
words, and talk about your relationship with him?
JS: I really didn’t have too much of a
relationship with him, because I got there towards the
end of his life. But, when I did have the pleasure of
getting to know him, he was a very funny guy who was
always good to communicate with. He was competitive even
though he was somewhat considered a funny character.
And, his knowledge of the game was good and I felt like
it was great to play for him and learn everything he had
to teach us.
took care of us freshman when we first got there.
first season at Nebraska was 1978-1979, and the team
finished 14-13 and 5th in the Big 8. What do you recall
about your first season at Nebraska?
JS: I thought
it was pretty awesome. I got to start about five or six
games as a freshman, and I thought it was great bringing
a lot of energy into the game as a freshman, and
hustling, diving, and playing defense. It was a little
bit overwhelming at first going against the Big 8
competition that existed here, because you had guys like
Ricky Frazier, Darnell Valentine, and Rolando Blackman.
It was just awesome competition in the Big 8.
HHC: At what point after the 1979 season
did you officially know that Cipriano had been diagnosed
with cancer, and did you have any clue before finding
JS: I didn’t have any clue. They told us,
and I was shocked, and it went really quickly. He
deteriorated really quickly from losing the hair, to
getting thinner, and missing a lot of practices and
games. It happened very quickly from originally finding
out to him first passing away, so it was a sad moment in
Nebraska Basketball history.
say that I liked the good connection with his son
(Randy) being here as an assistant, and I felt some
continued connection with him though Randy, who I
enjoyed being around, too.
HHC: Your sophomore year of 1979-1980 saw
Moe Iba as Associate Head Coach to Cipriano, and you
guys went 18-13 and faced Michigan in the NIT. Talk
about that year, and what it was like having Cip around
one final time?
JS: It was a great year. It was a
sophomore season and that year I had the chance to start
¾ of the season as a sophomore. It was great going to
the NIT, but unfortunately, we ran into Michigan, and
they had a very good, talented team.
experience of playing against a Big 10 team was great,
and it was also amazing getting to the NIT and having
such a successful season with all of those young kids on
HHC: After that season (1979-1980),
Cipriano became very ill, to the point that he passed
away just a couple of days before the beginning of your
junior year in 1980-1981. How difficult a process was
that to go through, and what do you remember about it?
JS: It was a very sad time of emotions for
most of us, as far as going through that and having to
deal with still participating in the sport and focusing
on schoolwork. Cipriano was well respected in the state
of Nebraska and great for the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln. So, it was a difficult time for us
going through that transition.
HHC: How do you feel Moe Iba did as a head
coach that year (1980-1981), when you guys went 15-12
and just missed the NIT?
JS: It was a very difficult year. Just trying to
adjust to a different style of play, where you come from
high school and Cipriano where you are more using your
athletic ability to do some things at more of a faster
pace, and then going to more of a slower pace, defensive
style of basketball. It was a big, big adjustment, and
that’s why I think you saw a big difference in our
junior years compared to our sophomore years, as far as
adjusting to that style of play.
I thought it was a very good disciplined system that
taught you a good understanding of the game and focus on
defense. So, it was an up and down year, but a great
HHC: Before we talk about your senior
season, talk about Moe Iba as both a man and coach, and
describe your relationship with him?
JS: I thought that Moe Iba was a good man
and a good husband to his wife, and a positive to his
children. He was a very defensive oriented coach, and
wasn’t too much in the way of communication and laughter
like a Joe Cipriano or Tom Baack.
was a good coach and he focused more on defense. He was
a good, disciplined coach, and had somewhat of a Bobby
Knight type of attitude, as far as getting things right
and discipline. In the long run, that was good.
HHC: And your last year at Nebraska was
1981-1982, and your team finished 16-12 while again just
missing the NIT. You guys scored one of the biggest wins
in school history that season, as you defeated 19-0 and
#1 Missouri 67-51. Is that the game that sticks out as
your favorite during your career at Nebraska?
JS: Yeah. Well, not necessarily the game
that sticks out the most, because we had some other
opportunities in Hawaii and playing against Wisconsin,
Louisville, and some other schools. But, beating
Missouri when they were ranked #1 was a great feeling,
because we did it on their home court in a very hostile
environment. It was a situation where we played the best
together as a team as we ever did in my four years, and
it was a pretty good experience.
HHC: Jack Moore also won the Naismith
Award that year, which was given to the nation's best
player under 6'0" tall. What did that mean to him and
JS: I thought that was great for him and
for the University of Nebraska. It demonstrated that
Jack was only 5’9” but had the heart of a lion. He was a
great floor general who we all fed off of, and I thought
that was a great moment in Nebraska Basketball history
to win that. He was just awesome, and a great,
outstanding player in the Big 8.
HHC: What was it like playing your entire
high school and college career with Jack?
JS: It was great because we started off
basically playing together in 6th grade, even
though we went to different schools. We played together
in the summer and in camps, and finally when we got to 9th
grade, we decided to go to the same school and continued
our friendship all the way through college.
Moore was my best friend, and it was a sad day when I
lost him, but his memories live on and he was a great
inspiration. He did a lot for Indiana basketball and
Nebraska basketball, so it was great, and I couldn’t
have asked for a better teammate and friend for all
those years growing up.
HHC: What are
your favorite memories at Nebraska, both on and off the
JS: Probably one of the things that a lot
of people tell me, and I’d finally agree with this, but
for four years, I had a good career at Nebraska. It may
not have shown up in the stats, but I think it showed up
in my enthusiasm and work efforts, and the fans
appreciated it so much because of the excitement that
they had when I was in the game and throwing shoes on
the floor, and it made me very popular in Nebraska
Basketball history from a fans stand point. Maybe not
necessarily leading in the stats, but there were other
intangibles that make up a great basketball player other
than stats. And, I think I was an example of someone who
was a blue-collar basketball player that did what he
could for the team in order to win, and I think the fans
was respectful to people on and off the court, and had
great relationships with people in the dorms and in the
city of Lincoln, and so it helped me out a lot just
being a good person on and off the court.
HHC: And when was the last time you were
in Lincoln, and do you still follow the team at all?
JS: I live in Lincoln, actually. I don’t
follow them as much as I used to. When you’ve got
changing coaches and things of that nature, you tend to
drift away a little bit.
some new coaches are more inviting of the alumni still
being part of the program, while others seem to not
think that’s very important. So, these last five or six
years, it seems like it hasn’t been communicated with
the alumni very much, so I don’t follow it as much as I
HHC: Finally, what has Jerry Shoecraft
been up to the past twenty-three years, and what is he
JS: I’m in Real Estate working for
First Management. I have a strong passion for real
estate, so I’m doing that. I did a little coaching on
and off at Doane College, and was an assistant there.
Now I’m just involved with my boys who are participating
in sports and are very active in basketball. And, I’ve
got a daughter who is very talented in basketball and
volleyball, and my two boys are also great in
basketball. So that keeps me busy, just helping them
realize their dreams.
HHC: If we set you up an email account at
[email protected] , would you be willing
to take some notes from our readers?
JS: Yeah, sure.
HHC: Awesome. Jerry, thanks a lot for
taking the time to join us. Anything you'd like to add?
JS: Just the fact that Henry T. Buchanan
thinks he’s better than me, but he’s still not today.
HHC: I know,
he talks a lot. Grant and I had lunch with him and Beau
a couple of weeks back and he kept blabbing about how
good he was and still is!
Unreal. Yeah, he does talk a lot, and we’re in a league
together and still competitive. Plus, we’re still
whopping up on these 20 year olds because they don’t
understand the game like we do, or keep their bodies and