Hard work paid off for Graff

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Glenn Graff in 1956

(This is the first of a two-part series on former Dupo High School basketball great Glenn Graff, who also coached at Waterloo High School in the mid-1960s. To read part two, click here. )

From chubby East Carondelet farm boy to high school and college basketball standout, hoops head coach and then successful businessman, Glenn Graff is a product of hard work, dedication and opportunity.

On this date 65 years ago, Graff opened his future to endless possibilities on the basketball court. 

Graff, a senior on the Dupo High School basketball squad, scored 75 points in a 102-66 road win at Waterloo. It gave him the Cahokia Conference season scoring title and set multiple records. The feat still stands as the seventh most points in one game in state history.

Danny Green of Freeburg led the conference in scoring entering the game, and the Tigers wanted their leader to come out on top in what was Dupo’s Cahokia Conference swansong at the time.

“The Tigers, of course, wanted their teammate to win that race and whenever the chance presented itself, they passed to Graff to allow him to do practically all the scoring,” the Waterloo Republican account of the Feb. 17, 1956, game reads.

Graff scored 42 points in the first half, went 30-for-57 from the floor and 15-for-23 from the free-throw line. 

And this was before the advent of the three-point line, which would have given Graff even more points.

“About two-thirds of my shots were 25-footers or more,” Graff says in a phone interview from his home in Alexandria, La.

Graff remembers simply having one of those “in the zone” type of games.

“I had a good, hot night,” he recalled. “Everything I threw up went in.” 

But it didn’t look like he was destined for basketball lore at the onset of his high school days.

“I wasn’t tall, wasn’t big,” Graff said. “I just worked my butt off. I wasn’t a great athlete. I was a great competitor. I scratched and I clawed and I worked.”

Graff lived on a farm up against the levee in East Carondelet. He remembered his family taking him to Dupo High School basketball games and  becoming instantly awe-struck.

“For a poor farm boy, just the dream of that Tiger on the wall and the crowd cheering… I thought ‘man, I’d love to do that.’”

But as a freshman, he was teased by other students and was told by coaches he needed to lose weight and practice shooting.

“They called me ‘farm boy,’” Graff said. “I just thought, ‘I will prove to the world I’ll be the best basketball player Dupo’s ever had.’”

His family installed a basketball hoop on a barn, where Graff would shoot into the night, seven days a week, after completing farm chores for his father. 

He also did push-ups and began a routine of running on the levee at set distances and times, gradually improving his quickness.

“I tried to improve by one second every day,” he said. “There’s something about measuring it and recording it on a daily basis.”

Graff made the varsity hoops team his sophomore year and lettered that season. It was rare for underclassmen to even make varsity back then.

“I was the strongest sophomore in Dupo, I guarantee you,” Graff said. “You gotta have a dream and a vision, and I had it right there in that barn on our farm.”

Graff said the barn and that goalpost still stands today.

Graff continued to improve on his running by joining Dupo’s cross country team his junior year.

In Graff’s junior season on the basketball court in 1955, Dupo advanced to the sectional round and lost to Alton in double overtime.

He averaged 23.1 points and 18 rebounds per game as a senior.

Graff, at 6-foot-3, finished his high school career as Dupo’s third all-time leading scorer with 1,324 points. He was named to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s East All-District Team in 1956.

Retired Dupo High School teacher and coach and sports historian Bob Mason refers to Graff as “the greatest Tiger of them all.”

“The few times that I have been fortunate enough to see him, I am completely honored,” Mason said.

News of Graff’s 75-point game resulted in immediate star status.

“I was like a hero on a little, run-down farm,” Graff recalled, adding he received letters from 30-40 colleges wanting him to play basketball for them.

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale pursued Graff pretty hard, he remembers, and University of Missouri also expressed interest.

“I wasn’t real smart. I couldn’t spell ‘rat,’” Graff said. “I didn’t think I would make it at a Missouri or SIU.”

That’s where little Louisiana College came in.

(Read next week’s issue of the Republic-Times for the conclusion of this story.)

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