• Sal Maiorana

Larry Fogle was a shooting star for Canisius

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (Jan. 12, 1974) - By the time the nation’s newfound college basketball scoring machine, Larry Fogle of Canisius, came face-to-face with arch rival, Niagara – his first taste of the Little Three basketball experience – he’d played in exactly 10 games for the Golden Griffins.

In that brief epoch, Fogle had already set the school’s single-game scoring record, a 51-point eruption in a 100-89 victory over George Washington two weeks earlier in the 20th and final Queen City Invitational at the Aud.

Fogle had also topped 40 points in four other games, giving him five of the school’s top seven individual scoring performances in its long history. His 23 made free throws and 26 attempted in the George Washington game also created two new lines in the Canisius record book, as did his 26 rebounds in a victory over Catholic University.

All that in his first 10 games.

Such was his impact that before Fogle showed up, Canisius had been playing basketball since 1903 and it had scored 100 or more points in a game 20 times. They did it four times in his first seven games and six overall in 1973-74.

So, as the long-time Little Three hoops protagonists geared up for their first clash of the 1973-74 season, there was some extra buzz along the Niagara Frontier, something that had been lacking in the once-vibrant Buffalo college basketball scene since the graduations of Calvin Murphy from Niagara and Bob Lanier from St. Bonaventure in 1970.

And that was only exacerbated by the fact the game would be played in the brand-new Niagara Falls International Convention Center. When the $47 million building was constructed, the decision had been made that the Purple Eagles would play their big-draw home games at the Convention Center as opposed to the quaint on-campus Gallagher Center which sat barely 2,500. And any game against Canisius or fellow Little Three combatant St. Bonaventure qualified as big in those days.

The highly-anticipated tip-off was delayed more than half an hour as dedication ceremonies were held to christen the venue, and once it started, the 9,543 on hand were treated to a thrilling back-and-forth affair that was ultimately won in overtime by Fogle and Canisius, 88-84.

Fogle got off to a dreadful start as he was scoreless in the first six minutes and picked up three fouls as Niagara opened a 36-31 halftime lead. But in the second half and overtime, Fogle caught fire as he poured in 31 points for a final total of 41. He scored 12 of Canisius’ last 16 points in regulation, including the tying basket in the final 30 seconds, as the Griffs rallied from a nine-point deficit.

And his buddy from back home in Brooklyn, center Charley Jordan – the person most responsible for convincing Fogle to transfer from Southwestern Louisiana – also had a big night. Playing in his first game of the season after being academically ineligible the first 10, Jordan scored 16 of his 18 points after halftime, and he and Fogle combined for Canisius’ first 12 points in the extra period.

“He did a good job,” said Canisius coach John Morrison of Jordan. “You have to remember he hadn’t played a second in almost a year and a half. He was tight in the first half, but in the second half he really helped us. The important thing he does is take some of the pressure off Larry.”

Niagara’s best player, Andy Walker, another New York City kid who knew both Jordan and Fogle, singled out Jordan by saying, “He killed us in the overtime.”

It was Jordan who broke an 84-84 tie with seven seconds left with a driving basket, but he was also called for an offensive foul which allowed Niagara’s Roy Beekman to attempt a pair of free throws that would have re-tied the score. Here, for some reason, Niagara coach Frank Layden iced his own kid when he called timeout.

“I told him we loved him whether he made it or not,” said Layden. Beekman missed the front end of the 1-and-1, Bill Leonard rebounded for Canisius, and after he was fouled, he made two clinching free throws.

If Layden was impressed after his first in-person look at Fogle, he wasn’t letting on.

“He didn’t dominate until we had our top guys on the bench in the second half,” said Layden, who was irritated that three of his players, Cleve Royster, Mike Hanley and Bruce Watson, all fouled out, choosing to ignore the fact that Fogle had three fouls before he’d scored a point, and four with still more than eight minutes remaining.

Layden pointed to one particular play. “He gives an elbow, makes the basket, and the foul is the fifth on Hanley with five minutes left in regulation,” Layden said. “If it’s Fogle’s foul, he’s out of the game, we have Hanley, and it’s our game. But I went through the same thing with Calvin and St. Bonaventure did with Lanier. The refs protect the nation’s leading scorer.”

Fogle was indeed the leading scorer when the season ended as he averaged 33.4 points per game and earned All-America honors.

Unfortunately, his tumultuous two-year stay at Canisius came crashing down a year later in a blaze of controversy which ultimately led to him being kicked off the team and the school being embarrassingly placed on NCAA probation for recruiting violations. But in that first season, Fogle single-handedly energized the Griffs’ sagging program and brought fire and brimstone back to the Little Three.

Fogle was a second-round pick by the New York Knicks in the 1975 NBA draft, but he wound up playing just two games in his NBA career. He ultimately became a star player in the triple-A level Continental Basketball Association and helped lead the Rochester Zeniths to the league championship in 1978.

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