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ESPN Classic to retell story of Rio Grande

The name Bevo Francis is synonymous with the University of Rio Grande basketball program.

Thursday, December 07, 2000

The name Bevo Francis is synonymous with the University of Rio Grande basketball program.

Known affectionately to everyone simply as Bevo, Francis put up legendary scoring totals that made the school a national power.

Now, the story of Francis and Newt Oliver, the coach who brought the legendary player to the school, will be retold at 8 p.m. Thursday on ESPN Classic.

Francis rewrote the NAIA and NCAA record books. He set the NCAA single-season scoring average record at 48.3, best two-year average, and most points in a game with 113.

His NAIA records are similar: single season scoring average of 50.1 and most points in a game, 116.

The NAIA recognizes all games that Rio Grande played in determining Francis’ records, while the NCAA only acknowledges games with four-year degree-granting institutions.

In 1951 during his senior year, Francis elected to play basketball. In his only year of varsity action at Wellsville High School, Francis scored 776 points in 25 games, an average of 31.4 per contest.

The numbers by the 6-foot-9 Francis led Wellsville to a 19-1 regular season record and a berth in the state playoffs.

Wellsville’s coach was Oliver, who took the head coaching position at Rio Grande the next year. His No. 1 recruit was Francis who had been sought after by numerous major college programs.

Rio Grande struggled to a 4-19 record the first year, but then a breakthrough game occurred on Jan. 9 the following season when Francis scored an unbelievable 116 points in a 150-85 win over Ashland (Ky.) College.

ESPN will focus its documentary on the game played Feb. 2, 1954, when Francis scored 113 points against Hillsdale (Mi.) College in Jackson. The 113-point performance is regonized b the NCAA as the all-time single season record.

The Redmen were 60-7 during the 1952-53 and 1953-54 seasons and earned national ranking among the top 20 teams in the country. In two seasons, Francis scored 3,272 points and set NAIA records for field goals with 708, free throws(538), points (1,954), and aveage (50.1).