Then & Now: Tom Scantlebury
Compiled By Dave Brandon
(Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations)
Basketball Hall of Famer Tom Scantlebury played for
Nebraska from 1968-1970, and is 27th on the
school's all-time scoring list (965 points). An
excellent free throw shooter out of the guard position,
Scantlebury led the 1969-1970 Huskers in scoring average
at 14.5 PPG, and played with Nebraska Basketball Hall of
Famers Chuck Jura, Marvin Stewart, Stuart Lantz, and Tom
Baack, as well as under Husker Hall of Famer Joe
Scantlebury is our latest guest in this Sunday’s edition
of "Then & Now."
HHC: Before we
talk about your career at Nebraska, walk us through your
background. Where did you play high school ball at, and
what brought you to Lincoln?
TS: I grew up in Oakland, California, and I was
All-City in high school, and All-Bay Area in Northern
California. And, I was recruited quite a few places, and
I chose Nebraska because at the time, they were rated 11th
in the nation, and they were at some point 7th
when they beat Kansas that season, but then Kansas ended
up beating them and won the Big 8 that year, which was
1966, or the year of the Glory Road movie.
HHC: Aw, right on. Tell us what the
perception of Nebraska basketball was like back then to
a high school kid like you?
TS: They were out there, and they played
Cal Berkley two games in a row, and I saw one of the
games and that’s when they had Stu Lantz, Nate Branch,
and Willie Campbell. And, I think they split, but they
played a high jumping, fast breaking game, and that was
the type of game that was suited for me.
HHC: Describe "Slippery Joe" Cipriano,
both as a coach and a person?
TS: I think as
a person, he was definitely a character. He was always
doing the practical jokes. I remember playing the
Mexican National Team down in Mexico City after my
freshman year, and him shooting off the halftime gun,
which was an actual starter’s pistol, and then chasing
the referees with a towel and swatting at them. (Laughs)
So just a total character.
coach, he was very well organized and had very good
assistant coaches. He knew how to win, and he knew how
to get the results that he needed to get. I did feel
that my senior year especially, we had three people lost
to academics, but I thought we had a good chance to be
Top 10 that year otherwise.
HHC: What was
your relationship like with Coach?
TS: Up and down. When I first got there
and was a freshman, I was in a Sports Illustrated
article as the top freshman in the country. And it
seemed like after that, that he didn’t want me to get a
big head for a brief time, so he was always trying to
keep me in check, so to speak. So it was up and down
until my senior year, and about then, that’s when I
think his true personality came out.
if we were the same age we would have been best buddies.
I think I matured a lot at the time of my senior year,
and he had more confidence in me. I really enjoyed that
HHC: Since most of our readers don't know
much about you as a player, describe Tom Scantlebury in
your own words.
TS: I was 6’3 and a ½, 190 pounds, played guard,
and occasionally forward. I was a running type of
player, a good jumper, hanging in the air, that type of
thing. I liked to drive and shoot from the outside, kind
of a slasher and outside jump shooter.
HHC: Your first season at Nebraska was
1967-1968, and the team finished 15-10 with a 3rd place
Big 8 finish. You played with some great players that
year, but before we get to that, tell us what it meant
to win the Big 8 Holiday Title?
TS: Back then, and I don’t know when the Big 8
post-season tournament started, but back then, they had
a Christmas tournament. So, we’d have our pre-season
games, and we’d play about 8 or 9, and then we’d play
the Big 8 tournament, which would be three games. There
was a game for 5th, 3rd, 1st,
remember we beat Oklahoma the first game that season,
and then Oklahoma State when Henry Iba coached, and he
ran his passing game and there was no shot clock, so
they took about 2 minutes off of the clock every
possession, and we beat them in a very close game. And
we beat Kansas State for the championship.
just a wonderful thing. I don’t think we were rated in
the Top 20, but we got to the point where it said “also
receiving votes”. And then we started off the Big 8, and
I know we lost our first two games, which were on the
road. But then we won our next six in a row and it
looked like we were heading toward the championship, and
then we just kind of floundered. We were 8-4 and ended
up 8-6 after losing our last two games, so we ended up 3rd.
I wouldn’t say it was a failure of a year, but we could
have done better.
HHC: Now, onto
the great players you played with your first season.
Stuart Lantz and Tom Baack were both on that team, and
that marked the first time in NU history that two 1,000
point scorers were on the team at the same time. What
was it like playing with them, and what did you learn?
TS: When I started playing, the freshman
were ineligible, so I was kind of used to practicing and
playing against them my freshman year. But being on
there team was an extreme honor. Both of them were
averaging 18, 19 points a game. They were very
Lantz was very athletic, and I know we used to have
jumping contests, and he could get 11 and a ½, 11 and 10
inches up there, and he was about my height, about 6’3”.
Stu was a very good shooter, very athletic, and played
pro for ten years.
was one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen, and was out
its ups and downs playing with them, because I was kind
of a 3rd option, but I did learn a lot from
playing with those guys.
HHC: Who were
some other players back then that were great in the Big
TS: Oh, Jojo White played at Kansas, right
when I started my sophomore year. Colorado had Pat
Frank, and then you had Don Smith from Iowa State,
Garfield Heard from Oklahoma, and I also played later on
against Clifford Ray, who was a star center for Golden
State. There were a lot of great players.
team alone, we had Chuck Jura, who was the best center
to come out and in my opinion, could have played in the
NBA for a long time but chose instead to go to Italy.
HHC: Talk more about having your picture
in Sports Illustrated with the "outstanding
freshman playing college basketball", especially since
you were honored alongside a couple of half-way decent
players in Calvin Murphy and Pete Maravich.
TS: Well, I did have a chance to play in three
college All-Star Games, averaging 24 points per game in
those three, and played for the Midwest
All-Stars at the end of my senior year. I got to play
against Nate Archibald, Dave Cowens, Rudy Tomjanovich,
and Pete Maravich was supposed to show up to that
tournament, but he didn’t, although his father was the
coach. There were a lot of great players that year.
Was your hair really as wild and crazy back then as
TS: They said that? (Laughs)
did, I think it was (Chuck) Jura.
Well, I didn’t have a lot of money to get a haircut back
really, I don’t remember that so much. The 70’s, people
were wearing their hair longer with sideburns and stuff,
man, but I never wore and never would wear a pony tail
or anything like that.
Hey, we have to ask the tough questions! Speaking of
which, 1968-1969 saw a disappointing finish of 12-14 for
your team, although you finished strong in Big 8 play,
going 5-5 after beginning 0-4. What was the problem that
TS: First of all, we didn’t have one senior on
the team. It was kind of chaotic, because we started off
the non-conference 5-1. We beat Michigan State, and then
we went off to Phoenix to play in the Sun Devil Classic,
and we played Cal and Arizona State, but we lost two
close games there. And then we went to the Big 8
Tournament and we lost the first game to Kansas, and if
I remember correctly, Coach Cipriano wanted us to stall
because Kansas had this 1-3-1 that they called the
“Jayhawker regular zone defense”, so there was no shot
Marvin Stewart and I were guards, and we were playing in
front of 15,000 people, and I think we got the jump
ball, and I just had the ball under my arm until
everyone started booing so loud, and I threw it to
Marvin and we just started to play catch. And the final
score was super low, and they beat us, and that was the
worst game I can remember being in, as far as
that, we won the next two games in the Big 8 tournament,
and ended up in 5th place, and then we were
just inconsistent. We beat Oklahoma, we beat some good
teams, and then we’d be silly and lose close games. We
just didn’t have any seniors or leadership.
HHC: What was it like playing in the
Coliseum back then?
TS: Oh, I loved it. Everybody was up close
and personal. I think it held 8,500 people, and it was
extremely loud when games were close. It was a good
floor, and it was a lot of fun.
HHC: Your last
season was 1969-1970, and you led the team in scoring at
14.5 PPG, while the team finished in a 3rd place Big 8
tie at 16-9. What sticks out about your senior season?
TS: That was a year that I felt we could
have been a Top 10 team, as I mentioned earlier. We had
Marvin Stewart, who was later an All-Big 8 player, and a
great player. He and Cliff Moller from New York City,
and Jim Brooks from Akron Ohio, they all got the
academic bad grades, and were ineligible. And I think if
we would have had them, we would have won 20 games and
gone over the top, and maybe won the Big 8 and gone to
all, regardless of that, I still enjoyed that season. I
was within one vote of making All-Big 8, as I made
second-team All-Big 8, and made the Midwest All Star Team, like
I said. Coach and I were getting along well and had
respect for each other. And I really enjoyed playing
with guys like Chuck Jura, Marvin Stewart, Cliff Moller,
Jim Brooks, etc.
another player who was great was Leroy Chalk, who played
in France for a number of years. He and Jura, Stewart, and Sam
Martin were my best friends, and we all got along great.
HHC: What do
you remember most about your times at Nebraska, and when
was the last time you made it back?
TS: The last time was Veteran’s Day
weekend, I went back to see my good friends Chuck Jura
and Sam Martin. And Janet Jura and Leslie Martin, their
wives, were also great to see. We flew back and stayed
with Sam one day and one night, and Chuck the other two.
went to a couple exhibition games, and we saw Creighton.
Then we saw Chuck’s son play at UNK, and he’s a great
player. Its too bad he didn‘t go to Nebraska, he would
have really helped them, but I think he’s real happy
with where he went. He’s a big strong kid, and he’ll
play somewhere after college.
saw Nebraska play an exhibition game down there against
Holy Family, and it was not a real pretty game to watch,
but Nebraska’s doing pretty well lately, except when my
wife Gayle and I were in Hawaii, and I know Nebraska had
won their first two and lost to Iowa State. And they
were playing Kansas in a national television game, and I
almost said “let’s go to a bar and watch Nebraska play
Kansas”, and then I thought something might go wrong and
I didn’t wan to embarrass myself, and that was like a 45
point game, so I’m glad I chose like I did.
Did you get a chance to play any professional basketball
after your career at Nebraska?
TS: I signed a contact with the Milwaukee
Bucks and went to veteran’s camp, and they had a 14-man
roster, which I was on. And then as the exhibition
season went on, and I got cut after they made a trade
and brought in Lucious Allen, who played at UCLA with
Lew Alcindor, and also Bob Boozer from Omaha. And then
that was it for me.
in the CBA for two years, and we won the CBA
Championship, and I was All-CBA and scored 21 a game.
And then I went to Australia and finished out the year,
and then I wanted to get back over here.
have stayed there for quite awhile, because I was
scoring like 30 points a game, but I wanted to get into
coaching, and I had a family and a daughter. And unless
you were in the NBA back then, I didn’t see that being
that financially beneficial, so I thought I’d just get
on with my life. But I did play three years after
HHC: And, what have you been up to the
past thirty years, and where are you at today?
TS: I coached in Nebraska in a small town
called Fort Calhoun for four years, and then I took a
job with Jostens, which is a yearbook/ring company. I
did that for twenty-five years, and I just kind of
three people to take my spot, so I figured I worked
three times as hard as I should have, so I quit early.
And then my wife retired, and we did that a couple years
ago. I won’t tell you our ages now, because my wife’s in
the room, but she’s younger than me, which she just
pointed out. (Laughs)
So I did
all that, and I have never quit playing basketball.
Chuck Jura, Sam Martin and I play for this team out
of Chicago, and we were just up in Edmonton, Canada, and
we won the world championship for over 50, and before
that, we were in Australia. I played with these guys in
Park City and Florida, and Australia, and Sydney again.
And this guy out of Chicago pays for everything and puts
us up in Five Star hotels. It’s great because there are
lots of ex-NBA players that play, and they have World
Games each year, and you can have a team for each group.
I have two kids, Jason and Lisa.
Jason played basketball, and also ran track and cross
country in high school. Now he's an administrator
of a business. Lisa ran cross country in her high
school days and now she's an
elementary school teacher, my wife also used to be a
teacher, and Lisa is also the mother of a five-year-old
HHC: Awesome. Hey, thanks a lot for taking
the time to join us. We've set you up an e-mail account
[email protected], and hope you will take
some e-mails from the fans. Are you cool with that?
TS: Yeah, definitely. It might take me
awhile because I’ll have to use my daughters computer,
but most definitely.
HHC: Not a problem,
this interview will be up for a long time! Is there
anything you’d like to add before we let you go?
TS: Well, we go to
Europe once a year, my wife and I, and last time we went
to Paris, we saw Leroy Chalk, and we’ve seen him a
couple of times over there. He’s doing well, and I know
he was the leading rebounder in Nebraska history at one
point, but I know he’s been beaten out since then. But
you’ve got to remember, we weren’t allowed to play as
But anyway, thanks a lot for doing this, it’s been nice