Saturday, August 22, 2009

Great Names in Great Games - The 1983 North Carolina Upset of Houston and Cozell McQueen

In 1983, the Houston Cougars were heavily favored to win the March Madness Championship. Phi Slamma Jamma starred the high flying, slam dunking duo of Hakeen "The Dream" Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, and managed to go 31-2 coming in to the championship game versus the North Carolina State Wolfpack.

But sometimes weird things happen. With the game tied at 52 very late in the 4th, Thurl Bailey of the Wolfpack passed the ball to Dereck Whittenburg, who missed his shot. But then Lorenzo Charles of North Carolina came out of nowhere, followed through with the nice put back dunk, and the Wolfpack were NCAA champions.

Now the game has certainly made legends of those three Wolfpack players. And considering those three guys scored 33 of NC's 54 points, they probably deserve it. But what of the lesser guys? What about Steve Cozell McQueen?

To be fair, no one on that team is a complete unknown. Apparently Cozell once ran into WWF/WCW star Ric Flair...and had Flair ask for HIS autograph. But as for the game itself, he had to be at best the 4th most famous NC State-er. He did only go 1-5 from the floor for 4 points, which wasn't great. But with a team leading 12 boards as well, it's hard to imagine what NC's chances would have been without Cozell.

Sadly, Cozell's big performance in a big game didn't amount to much in the NBA. Though he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 4th round of the 1985 draft, Cozell didn't actually make his NBA debut until two years later, with his third team. During one of two ten game contracts with the Pistons, Cozell saw seven minutes of playing time over three games, shooting 100% (3-3) from the floor. Not too shabby, but that would be it for him, and he never played in the NBA again after 1987. Apparently that was long enough for people to gather weird memorabilia of his, however, as a New York Knicks warmup jacket of Cozell's was available online for about $2000 in 2005. Shame it sold already, as it's quite the set.

Life in basketball after the NCAA championship may not have been nice to Cozell McQueen. But he'll always be remembered for his presence on that NC State championship team, and he'll always be remembered by us at the Great Sports Name Hall of Fame for his truly awesome name in a truly awesome game.

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