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.

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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?

 

Milo Komenich, a two-time All-American at Wyoming, wore the No. 17 and 27 during his four-year career in Laramie./ UW Athletics courtesy photo
Milo Komenich, a two-time All-American at Wyoming, wore the No. 17 and 27 during his four-year career in Laramie./ UW Athletics courtesy photo
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No. 17 - MILO KOMENICH

Center, 1941-43; 1945-46, Gary, Ind.

 

Résumé in Laramie

* All-American selection 1942-43

* All-American selection 1945-46

* First-team All-Skyline Conference selection 1941-42

* First-team All-Skyline Conference selection 1942-43

* First-team All-Skyline Conference selection 1945-46

* Scored 1,140 career points at UW

* One of 38 players in UW history to eclipse 1,000 points

* Scored 548 points as a senior, then the most ever in the Rocky Mountain region

 

Why Komenich?

Wyoming was fresh off an NCAA Tournament title, capping a 28-2 season for the ages.

How fresh? It happened two nights prior.

Before the champagne had a chance to dry and many players boarded trains en route to military bases around the country in preparation for World War II, there was still one unexpected game to be played.

After the Pokes knocked off Georgetown 46-34 inside Madison Square Garden in New York City, they once again laced them up for another game at the world's most famous arena. This time, it was for charity.

UW head coach Everett Shelton issued a challenge to the recently crowned NIT Champs, St. John's -- let's play one more.

Yes, proceeds went to the American Red Cross.

No, this game was not just for fun.

While the media called the Redmen the best team in the sport, Wyoming, led by big man Milo Komenich, went toe-to-toe with St. John's from the starting jump to the final whistle.

The main attraction that night was the battle between the 6-foot-7 Komenich and SJU center, Harry Boykoff.

In front of 18,000 in attendance, the scrappy bunch from Laramie pulled out the 52-47 overtime victory. And they did it without Komenich, who fouled out with a minute to go in regulation. Fortunately for the Cowboys starting forward, James "Jimmy" Weir -- our selection at No. 16 -- stepped in and hit a pair of hook shots and a crucial free throw to bury the Redmen.

Komenich, along with UW teammate Kenny Sailors, became one of the best inside-outside combos in college basketball.

"He was Wyoming’s first-ever “big man” in the sport of basketball, and a classy All-American," Komenich's UW Athletics Hall of Fame plaque reads. He was inducted in 2006. Komenich is also a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame after a standout career at Lew Wallace High School in Gary.

After college, Komenich played professionally for five seasons, suiting up for the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons and Anderson Packers. In 1949, he helped the Packers win an NBL Championship.

 

Honorable mention

Ron Rivers (1952-54) was named a First-Team All-Skyline selection in consecutive seasons in the early 1950's.

As a freshman, Rivers helped lead the Cowboys to an NCAA Tournament berth where UW fell to Santa Clara 67-52 in the opening round.

The 6-foot-7 center is still ranked sixth all-time in program history in rebound average, snagging 8.6 per game. During the 1952-53 campaign, Rivers pulled down 10.5 boards an outing. That's still good enough for the eighth-best single-season in Cowboy history.

Wyoming went 56-28 overall and 31-11 in league play during Rivers' era.

 

Who else wore No. 17

McKay "Mac" Jewkes (50's), Gordon Holden (50's),

 

Look who wore the No. 16 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 cody@7220sports.com

* 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.

Xazavian Valladay