The All-Time Underappreciated Georgia Basketball Team

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Mar 13, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Georgia Bulldogs cheerleaders during the first half of the third round against South Carolina Gamecocks of the SEC Conference Tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Zippy Morocco

Georgia’s first All-American basketball player is Zippy Morocco. A first generation American as well as Bulldog, Zippy Morocco followed the path of that other beloved Bulldog son of Youngstown Ohio, Frankie Sinkwich, to Athens.

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At a time when Georgia basketball players were two or more sport athletes, Morocco, no doubt one of the greatest athletes to wear a Bulldog uniform, played for head basketball coach Red Lawson. Just as Morocco dedicated the bulk of his time to football during the 1950, 1951 and 1952 season, Lawson was one of many head basketball coaches that also served as an assistant football coach.

An accomplished football player for the Dawgs, Morocco returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown vs. Furman, ran a punt back 65 yards against Texas A&M for a touchdown, and following the 1950 season scored on a 30 yard run in the only “Presidential Cup” played.

Great football player that he was, Morocco entered Bulldog lore on the hardwood. Scoring 38 points against Tennessee in Knoxville his senior year, the last two his standard two handed setter from half-court, the Bulldogs knocked Tennessee out of second place in the SEC and the 1953 post-season.

Loran Smith reported the reaction of the Tennessee head coach, Emmett Lowery, in “Although we hated losing the ball game last night, the team and myself, as well as the fans of Knoxville, all admired your outstanding performance. I don’t believe I have ever seen a finer individual performance than you put on here last night.”

Dan Magil in an post from a 1999 article, retold the story of Morocco’s 38-point outburst from a Volunteer point of view, quoting Gus Manning, the then Vols’ sports information director.

”Morocco finished with 38 points, and when he broke Cliff Hagan’s all-time SEC scoring record late in the game, time was called and an announcement was made over our PA system, following which the Tennessee fans gave Morocco the biggest ovation I’ve ever heard.

Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia Bulldogs /

Georgia Bulldogs

The amazing thing about Morocco was the distance of his set shots. He was hitting from the center line, 35 and 40 feet, from the basket. He put on his greatest exhibition in the last few minutes. Georgia was trailing by one point, and started freezing the ball to kill time for a last shot. With five seconds left, the ball was flipped to Morocco, from 40 feet out, he knocked the bottom out of the basket.”

In that 1953 season, Morocco’s only as a fulltime basketball player, his football eligibility exhausted, releasing him from off-season obligations, Morocco scored 560 points, smashing Kentucky All-American Cliff Hagen’s record of 540 points set the previous season.

Dan Magil in an post from a 1999 article described Morocco as, “Quick as a cat with the heart of a lion.” Morocco’s two had set shot combined with non-stop application of his quickness of foot and hand made him a deadly offensive weapon once he was able to focus completely on basketball. And while his offensive skills are legendary, he provided a ferocious disrupting presence defensively.

Morocco averaged 23.6 points per game his senior year, 1953, ranks 10 on the Georgia single season scoring list, and converted 210 of 303 free throws, both attempts and makes are Georgia season records, and he still holds the single game record for attempts and makes, 16 of 24 against Florida.

One can only wonder what basketball feats Morocco could have accomplished as a full-time basketball player his entire time at Georgia. Could a full-time basketball playing Morocco have inspired the Bulldog Nation to dedicate itself to basketball a decade before the hiring of its first full-time coach, Ken Rosemond?

Don’t even think about it.

Next: A Lasting Legacy