George McGinnis & All-Time Grid-Hoopers!

George McGinnis & All-Time Grid-Hoopers!


NBA Hall of Famer George McGinnis is one of the best athletes of all-time. He rates as one of the very best Grid-Hoop athletes in U.S. high school history. 

Earlier this week there was some Internet chatter and reports that all-time ABA great, former All-NBA performer, Indiana University All-America and 1969 Mr. Basketball USA George McGinnis had passed. The former six-time all-star and Naismith Hall of Famer is reportedly gravely ill, but is still alive. With his name in the news, we’d thought it would be a great time to share some of the unique high school exploits of the “Baby Bull” since he is truly an under appreciated all-time great athlete.

By the time the Indiana state tournament rolled around McGinnis’ senior year at Washington (Indianapolis) in 1968-69, he was already well-known throughout the state. What transpired at Hinkle Fieldhouse, however, turned him into a Hoosier legend. Over 50 years later, it’s still considered the IHSAA’s best Final Four by a long shot and still talked about.

Washington, led by the powerful McGinnis, center Steve Downing and guard Wayne Pack (the latter two who later had cups of coffee in the NBA) came in at 29-0. There was two other teams who came in unbeaten at 27-0, Marion (Ind.) and Vincennes (Ind.), with Tolleston (Gary, Ind.) at 27-1, its lone loss coming against Farragut (Chicago) when three starters were nursing a flu.

McGinnis set a state tourney record by scoring 148 points, as the Continentals survived Marion in the semis, 61-60, with its star big man going for 27 points and grabbing the key rebound to seal the win after Downing got a piece of the potential game-winning field goal. In the title game, Washington downed Tolleston, 79-76, with McGinnis going for 35 points.

The Continentals finished 31-0 and are regarded as one of the nation’s best teams ever, while the Baby Bull became the first IHSSA player ever to score 1,000 points in a season. Before going on to IU, his legend went into another sphere because of his 53-point, 31-rebounds performance in the annual Kentucky vs. Indiana All-Star Game. McGinnis was considered the nation’s best player and it wasn’t difficult to retroactively name him Mr. Basketball USA.

What many don’t know is McGinnis was also a terrific football talent; all-state in both sports. McGinnis was highly sought out of Washington as a 6-foot-7, 230-pound defensive end. His high school football coach, Bob Springer, called him the best player he’d ever seen and colleges all over the country courted him. Michigan State pitched him as the “next Bubba Smith”. Springer eventually had to tell over 250 colleges that McGinnis was going to focus on basketball.

That didn’t stop the Dallas Cowboys from calling.

Indiana football coach John Pont and the school’s athletic director wanted Big George on the football team. He didn’t budge, but that didn’t stop legendary Cowboys GM Gil Brandt from checking in and pithing McGinnis one last time. Brandt turned Olympic champion sprinter Bob Hayes into a NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver and turned high school All-America guard Cornell Green of El Cerrito (Calif.) into a fine defensive back even though he never played college football at Utah State.

McGinnis, however, was destined for hardwood immortality.

Big George was good enough at both sports to be our football-basketball combo Grid-Hoop National Player of the Year for both his junior and senior year. It wasn’t until 50 years later that another athlete was good enough to be selected twice. Joe Girard III (now at Clemson) averaged 50.0 ppg as a junior and passed for 1,911 yards and 24 touchdowns. As a senior, he came back to pass for 3,078 yards and 36 touchdowns and post a 48.6 ppg average while finishing with 4,763 career points.

Perhaps Allen Iverson was good enough to be the nation’s best Grid-Hooper two straight years, but unfortunately he missed his senior year at Bethel (Hampton, Va.) after a now-infamous 1993 bowling alley brawl where his felony conviction was eventually overturned by the Virginia Court of Appeals and granted clemency by Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder.

Looking at the all-time national Grid-Hoop Player of the Year list, only McGinnis and three years later guard Quinn Buckner, who also played on an all-time high school hoops team at Thornridge (Dolton, Ill.), were Mr. Basketball USA choices good enough at football to be named Grid-Hoop Player of the Year. Interestingly enough, Buckner did play football at Indiana before going on to the NBA.

Some of the names on the all-time list are instantly recognizable and many are all-time greats in football. John Havlicek, McGinnis and The Answer are the NBA Hall of Famers on the list. Some years the pool of Grid-Hoopers are undoubtedly better than others, but all are legendary athletes.

Who came closest to being national player of the year in both sports? Ron Curry of Hampton (Va.) was actually the national player of the year in football for a Crabbers team ranked No. 1 in the nation two straight years, and named the Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year in conjunction with the McDonald’s All-American Game, but our 1997-98 Mr. Basketball USA choice was forward Rashard Lewis of Elsik (Houston). He went on to the NBA, while Curry, a high school quarterback, played wide receiver in the NFL after playing QB in college at North Carolina.

McGinnis would be on the short list with Curry as the best Grid-Hoopers of all-time, along with names such as Stan Rome, Terry Kirby, Tony Gonzalez, Greg Paulus, Terrelle Pryor and Jalen Suggs. All were first team All-American types in football and legitimate Top 50 type prospects in basketball.

So who was the best of them all?

It’s hard to say or name just one but there is little doubt McGinnis is right up there.

McGinnis was that great of an athlete.

Ballislife NationalGrid-Hoop Players of the Year

(Selections retroactive from 1979 back based on research by editor Ronnie Flores with input from Mark Tennis of Cal-Hi Sports, Kevin Askeland of Maxpreps.com and retired National High School Hall of Fame journalist Doug Huff; Selections are based on high school accomplishment, not future college/pro potential and are reflective of those that lead their teams to state championships in both football and basketball.)

2022-23 — Lincoln Kienholz, Riggs (Pierre, S.D.) 6-2 QB/G2021-22 — Sonny Styles, Pickerington Central (Pickerington, Ohio) 6-4 DB/F2020-21 — Travis Hunter, Collins Hill (Suwanee, Ga.) 6-1 DB/WR/G2019-20 — Jalen Suggs, Minnehaha Academy (Minneapolis) 6-4 QB/G2018-19 — Joe Girard III, Glens Falls (N.Y.) 6-2 QB/G2017-18 — Joe Girard III, Glens Falls (N.Y.) 6-2 QB/G (Jr.)2016-17 — Sage Surratt, Lincolnton (N.C.), 6-3, WR/G2015-16 — Chazz Surratt, East Lincoln (Denver, N.C.) 6-4 QB/G2014-15 — Joe Burrow, Athens (Ohio) 6-4 QB/F2013-14 — Patrick Mahomes, Whitehouse (Texas) 6-3 QB/F2012-13 — Cornelius Elder, Ensworth (Nashville, Tenn.) 5-10 RB/G2011-12 — Dorial Green-Beckham, Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.) 6-6 WR/F2010-11 — Jacoby Brissett, Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) 6-2 QB/G2009-10 — Jackson Jeffcoat, Plano West (Plano, Texas) 6-3 DE/F2008-09 — Marlon Brown, Harding Academy (Memphis, Tenn.) 6-5 WR/F2007-08 — Terrelle Pryor, Jeannette (Pa.) 6-6 QB/F2006-07 — Tray Allen, South Grand Prairie (Grand Prairie, Texas) 6-4 OL/F2005-06 — Percy Harvin, Landstown (Virginia Beach, Va.) 6-1 WR/G2004-05 — Greg Paulus, Christian Brother’s Academy (Syracuse, N.Y.) 6-2 QB/G2003-04 — Dwayne Jarrett, New Brunswick (N.J.) 6-5 WR/F2002-03 — Matt Bush, Male (Louisville, Ky.) 6-3 QB/G2001-02 — Matt Trannon, Northern (Flint, Mich.) 6-7 WR/F2000-01 — Marcus Spears, Southern Lab (Baton Rouge, La.) 6-5 TE/F1999-00 — Dominique Sims, De La Salle (Minneapolis) 6-2 QB/G1998-99 — Derek Smith, Highlands (Fort Thomas, Ky.) 6-4 TE/F1997-98 — Ronald Curry, Hampton (Va.) 6-2 QB/G1996-97 — LaVarr Arrington, North Hills (Pittsburgh) 6-4 LB/F1995-96 — Tim Couch, Leslie County (Hyden, Ky.) 6-5 QB/F1994-95 — Randy Moss, DuPont (Belle, W.Va.) 6-4 WR/F1993-94 — Tony Gonzalez, Huntington Beach (Calif.) 6-4 TE/F1992-93 — Allen Iverson, Bethel (Hampton, Va.) 6-0 QB/G (Jr.)1991-92 — Steve Taneyhill, Altoona (Pa.) 6-3 QB/G1990-91 — Marvin Harrison, Roman Catholic (Philadelphia) 6-0 WR/G1989-90 — Lawrence Moten, Archbishop Carroll (Washington, D.C.) 6-4 TE/G1988-89 — Terry Kirby, Tabb (Va.) 6-2 RB/G1987-88 — Carl Pickens, Murphy (N.C.) 6-3 WR/F1986-87 — Greg Skrepenak, G.A.R. (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) 6-8 OL/C1985-86 — Ed McCaffrey, Central Catholic (Allentown, Pa.) 6-5 TE/F1984-85 — Andre Rison, Northwestern (Flint, Mich.) 6-0 DB/G1983-84 — Chris Carter, Middletown (Ohio) 6-2 WR/G1982-83 — John Paye, Menlo (Atherton, Calif.) 6-3 QB/G1981-82 — Paul Jokisch, Brother Rice (Birmingham, Mich.) 6-7 WR/F1980-81 — Mark Rypien, Shadle Park (Spokane, Wash) 6-4 QB/G1979-80 — Reginald White, Howard (Chattanooga, Tenn.) 6-6 DL/C1978-79 — Tony Hunter, Moeller (Cincinnati) 6-5 TE/F1977-78 — Ken McAlister, Oakland (Calif.) 6-5 LB/F1976-77 — Danny Ainge, North Eugene (Eugene, Ore.) 6-4 WR/G1975-76 — Butch Carter, Middletown (Ohio) 6-5 WR/G1974-75 — Tony Nathan, Woodlawn (Birmingham, Ala.) 6-2 ATH/G1973-74 — Stan Rome, Valdosta (Ga.) 6-5 WR/F1972-73 — Lester Hayes, Wheatley (Houston) 6-1 LB/G1971-72 — Quinn Buckner, Thornridge (Dolton, Ill.) 6-2 DB/G1970-71 — Charles Cleveland, Bibb County (Centerville, Ala.) 6-5 WR/F1969-70 — Joel Parker, Clearwater (Fla.), 6-5 WR/F1968-69 — George McGinnis, Washington (Indianapolis) 6-7 TE/F1967-68 — George McGinnis, Washington (Indianapolis) 6-7 TE/F (Jr.)1966-67 — Dan Fife, Clarkston (Mich.) 6-2 ATH/G1965-66 — Jim Mandich, Solon (Ohio) 6-2 TE/F1964-65 — Norm Van Lier, Lincoln (Midland, Pa.) 6-0 QB/G1963-64 — Ken Stabler, Foley (Ala.) 6-3 QB/F1962-63 — Randy Mahaffey, LaGrane (Ga.) 6-6 DE/F1961-62 — Myron Erickson, Orland (Calif.) 6-5 WR/C1960-61 — Lance Rentzel, Casady (Oklahoma City, Okla.) 6-2 RB/G1959-60 — Archie Roberts, Holyoke (Mass.) 6-0 QB/G1958-59 — Terry Baker, Jefferson (Portland, Ore.) 6-2 QB/G1957-58 — John Havlicek, Bridgeport (Ohio) 6-5 QB/F1956-57 — Glynn Gregory, Abilene (Texas) 6-2 RB/G1955-56 — George Greathouse, Phoenix Union (Phoenix, Ariz.) 5-9 RB/G1954-55 — Randy Duncan, Roosevelt (Des Moines, Iowa) 6-0 QB/G

Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at [email protected]. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores



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