Hometown:  Oklahoma City, OK  (Central HS)

CATEGORY   TOTAL   1940 1941 1942
YEAR     So. Jr. Sr.
HEIGHT     6'3 6'3 6'3
WEIGHT     165 165 165
Games Played/Started 51/   14/ 15/ 22/
Points 107   11 34 62
   Per Game 2.1   0.8 2.2 2.8
   Per Game          
FG: Attempts          
FT: Attempts          

1939:  Scholastically ineligible.

1941:  Starter.

1942:  Starter.

1943:  Joined Marines.

7/21/1944:  Killed in action.

1946:  Elected Captain post-humously.

Mayer: Poignant Jayhawk memoirs recall day Phog Allen cried

By Bill Mayer, Contributing Editor

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Sports. They're the Toy Department of Life. Hard reality includes Kuwait, Baghdad and all those other sand-bag spots where dedicated Americans run the constant risk of injury, disease and death.

What the hell business does anyone in basketball have describing a contest as a war or battle? Or labeling some iron-willed coach The General as if he were an equivalent of a George Patton? Yet we need something besides constant television repetition about "war" when there's too much screen-time to fill.

I'm glad the NCAA basketball show wasn't called off by this crunch-time. A lot of our armed forces find needed relief and diversion in such ventures. After Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the Kansas University basketball team began its season with a Dec. 17 victory at Denver. Military-bound players such as T.P. Hunter fashioned a 17-5 season record, won a Big Six co-championship and had a 2-1 NCAA Tournament appearance.

Considering the comparative severity of our national status in '41-42, it makes sense to go ahead this year. But KU basketball and wartime created one of the most poignant, torturous moments coach Phog Allen ever experienced.

In 1943, Doc Allen began his "Jayhawk Rebounds." That produced a series of 18 treasured communications with his players and close friends in the armed forces. Allen, who also served and headed the Douglas County Draft Board, wrote to the guys about everything, reprinted some of their replies and compiled an ever-growing list of addresses so they could reach each other.

It's awesome to re-read material compiled by this incredibly versatile, caring man who did so many vital things beyond sports. That included serving on the city council, chairing the Community Chest, performing as a miraculous osteopath and orchestrating one major KU-civic gain after another.

In the 15 or so years I was blessed to be associated with Phog through the Journal-World, I saw him with tears in his eyes on several private occasions. I never saw him actually cry. I'm sure he did, though, when he issued Jayhawk Rebounds No. 11 Sept. 12, 1944. Phog's comments:

"Somehow this is the most difficult letter that I have ever attempted to write. Over a dozen times I have begun it and each time I have walked away from my desk because words fail me. I feel such a void. Something has gone from me. Your friend and mine -- good, old honest ‘Teep', T.P. Hunter (1st Lt. 9th Marines), was killed on Guam, July 21, 1944. And yet this morning he feels closer to me than at any moment that I have known him. Across the miles that span Lawrence and Guam, it seems so trivial. This thing we call death has brought him closer to me at this very moment than he has been for years. The glories of his life are magnified a hundredfold.

"A Chinese philosopher once said, ‘Life seems so unreal at times that I do not know whether I am living dreams or dreaming life.' The life here and the life hereafter seem so much a part of all of us that T.P.'s presence is manfest. He will live forever in our hearts. What more love can a man have that he lay down his life for his friend? He did that. ... "

Phog and wife Bess learned in late August about the loss of Hunter, a '40-42 KU letterman. "Somehow I could not believe it," Doc wrote, "because I felt that after Teep had been in Guadalcanal, Bougainville -- in fact all the tough Marine engagements, that he would make it.

"In T.P.'s letter to me on Jan. 1, 1944 ... he stated, ‘Thought you might like to know a little about our game with the Japs in Bougainville. Well, everything was going fine until they got me and my boys in a hot box. I thought for a while they were going to call in the outfielders to get us out. Fortunately for us, we got out before they had time.'

"T.P. was our outstanding pitcher in his senior year and his baseball terminology fit most aptly into this very difficult situation. He continued in his Jan. 1 letter, ‘I have called it a game, Doc, and to me that is just about how it seemed. The same is true for most of the boys that return. The bad part of the whole war is these boys who have to give their lives to win. I had some of those and for them it must have been more than a game.' ... "

Phog continues: "These lines have often run through my mind and they still do: ‘Only those are fit to live who are not afraid to die.' This modest, clean, genteel and resourceful boy, beloved by every classmate and athletic adversary, was held in the highest esteem by all. He was buoyant, dominant yet modest and self-effacing. ... On trips, it was Teep who always took the lone wolf for a roommate. Boys paired off, friendship and affection for each other dominating the selection. Any one of the men would have picked T.P. as a roommate, but T.P. always took the least admirable of the gang."

More from Phog: "T.P. Hunter was a great influence for good, whether on or off the athletic field. He was always living vicariously and constructively. (Son) Mit Allen and I were speaking regarding the untimely loss. Mit, always a realist, said spontaneously, ‘T.P. was perhaps too God-like to live long in this world. . . . It matters not how he got it (death), I'll bet he took it without a whimper as he took everything that came to him.'"

Tributes to Teep poured in. But if you knew the crusty Mit Allen, you know there never could have been a more glowing salute to T.P. Hunter. Mit was a wartime Navy officer and starred in 1934-36 under his dad as a point guard-quarterback. Sadly, Phog later learned that Wayne Nees, a 1938-39 basketball letterman who also took part in football and track, died May 18, 1943, on Kiska. Nees was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart; that's doggone heavy hardware, folks.

Let's hope Roy Williams and other coaches never have to deal with the loss of a T.P. Hunter and that their only tears are shed for sports victory or defeat.

The challenges in sports; what can be the cruelty of raw reality? Nobody put it better than former Texas and Oklahoma City basketball coach Abe Lemons. He'd heard tennis brat John McEnroe whining about the pressure of being ranked No. 1. Barbed Abe: "When I was 18 and on my belly on Iwo Jima, I used to comfort myself by thinking, ‘Boy, am I lucky not having to deal with the pressure of big-time tennis!"

Only the Toy Department, folks; look it up.