Which Wyoming hoopster wore it best? No. 16
LARAMIE -- Do you ever see a number on a Wyoming basketball jersey and think of all the great players to wear it?
Yeah, me too.
In this summer series, I’ll give you my take on which Pokes’ hoopster was the best ever to don each number. The criteria are simple: How did he perform at UW? What kind of impact did he have on the program?
No. 16 - JAMES WEIR
Forward, 1940-43; 1945-46, Green River, Wyo.
Résumé in Laramie
* 1943 NCAA National Champion
* 1943 World Champion (Beat NIT winner St. John's)
* 1943 All-American
The No. 1 team in the land never made it to the NCAA Tournament in 1943.
That was the Fighting Illini from the University of Illinois. The Big Ten champs finished the regular season 17-1. Four players from that team earned First-Team All-Conference honors. It would've been five if Otto Graham wasn't playing basketball up the road at Northwestern.
So, why did the Illini forgo their chance to play in the postseason -- World War II.
We will never know if Wyoming could've gotten past Illinois in the Big Dance, but we do know Everett Shelton's team went 28-2, won the Mountain States Championship then knocked off Oklahoma and Texas before beating Georgetown 46-34 in the title game.
You might not know this -- The Cowboys nearly didn't field a team at all during the 1942-43 season. With battles raging in Europe, players were encouraged to join the war effort. It was a last-second decision from administration that made it all possible.
Because of the delay, however, Wyoming was only able to schedule nine home games. If the Cowboys planned to hoist a trophy at season's end, they would have to make hay on the road. They did just that, dropping just two road games all year, the first in Pittsburgh against Duquesne in their fourth game. A 23-game win streak followed.
James Weir, the starting forward on that title team, averaged better than 10 points per outing. Standing 6-foot-6, the Green River product was one of 11 Wyoming natives on that roster.
After the win over Georgetown, Shelton proposed a showdown between his Cowboys and the St. John's Redmen, who were fresh off an NIT Championship. Madison Square Garden was the venue. All proceeds from the game would go to the American Red Cross.
Wyoming pulled off the 52-47 victory in overtime. Weir scored five crucial points in the extra frame with starting center Milo Komerich on the bench after fouling out late in regulation. But the party was short lived. Weir, according to a story from asipofsports.com, didn't even go back to Laramie, instead hopping a train to Ft. Benning, Georgia where he would immediately begin officer training school.
In a 1946 article "German iron in shoulder fails to halt Wyoming hooper," which appeared in the Spartanburg Herald, Weir detailed some of his time in the Army.
"Nine pieces of German iron in his "shooting shoulder" couldn't keep big Jim Weir off the Wyoming University basketball team and this happy-go-lucky giant served as an inspiration for all those who come back from the wars to the campus," the story begins.
Weir landed on the beaches just seven days after D-Day and didn't stop until he reached Hamburg despite being laid up for three months after being wounded, the article continues
"My whole right arm hung down like a limp piece of rope and the doctors said it would probably be paralyzed for life," Weir told the newspaper. "Then they operated and took two big lumps of shrapnel out of my armpit. They must have weighed a pound apiece. A few days later I found I could move my arm around okay although it hurt like the dickens. That's when the doctors gave me hope. They said that if it hurt it meant I was going to be alright."
At the conclusion of the war, Weir returned to the high plains where he played one more season for the Cowboys. Wyoming went 22-4 overall and finished with a 10-2 mark in Skyline Conference play. That wasn't enough to return to March Madness.
"You forget everything you ever did when you go into action and wonder whether the next shell has your ticket on it," the article continues. "But it's impossible to say how good it is to be back, to walk around the Wyoming campus and meet guys you used to play and study with."
Weir returned to his hometown after his playing days and became a coach at Green River High School. He won back-to-back state titles in 1949 and '50.
Who else wore No. 16
Danny Blevins (50's), Frank Sannes (50's), Jerry Moore (50's), Steve Shelton (50's), Don Sharp (50's), LeRoy Lewis (50's),
Look who wore the No. 15 best right HERE.
Check out our "Who Wore it Best" football series right HERE.
* All available rosters provided by the University of Wyoming Athletics Department. If we missed a player who wore this number, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
* A number of players wore different jersey numbers during their careers. From the 1930's through the 50's, players were issued a home and an away jersey.