Part 10 of our series profiling each member of the 2012 Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame. Today's profile is on Jack Harvey, a two-time All-American basketball player and member of CU’s 1940 NIT Championship team. Click here for a recap of the induction ceremony which took place Thursday night.
In 1951, as the University of Colorado celebrated its 75th anniversary, Dean Carlson, Kayo Lam and Frosty Cox were asked to name the university’s athletic greats. Jack Harvey was listed by all three men.
The lanky center from Frankfort, Kan., wasn’t just good — he was one of the best athletes of an entire era.
|Jack Harvey was a great defender, as the Buffs beat DePaul in the 1940 NIT.
“Harvey may have been the greatest basketball player in CU history. He earned more recognition for the basketball program and more personal accolades than any Buff,” said former teammate Bob Kirchner. “He was the outstanding college player of that era.”
As a sophomore, Harvey earned all-conference honors while leading Colorado to a tie for first place in the Big Seven Conference. That same season, Harvey and the Buffaloes finished second in the N.I.T. in New York. At the time, the N.I.T. was the most prestigious tournament in college basketball.
Harvey earned all-conference honors yet again as a junior and was also named to three different All-American teams. Harvey led CU to their first undisputed Big Seven Championship, establishing himself as one of the top players in all of college basketball.
Harvey saved the best for last; in his senior campaign (1939-40) Harvey was named to three different All-American teams yet again and became the first player in Colorado history to be selected twice as a first-team All-American. No CU basketball player has accomplished the feat since. Harvey’s relentless defense and offensive prowess helped lead the Buffs to a No. 1 ranking, a feat that has not been repeated since. That same year, Harvey and the Buffaloes won the N.I.T. with wins over DePaul and Duquesne.
In his back-to-back All-America campaigns (1938-39, 1939-40), CU posted one of the best two-season records west of the Mississippi, going 31-8 and earned recognition as the No. 1 team in the land in 1940. In his senior season, Harvey was fourth in conference scoring with 10.1 points per game and first in free throws made with 43. In 1940, Harvey scored 27 points in CU’s 52-37 win at Denver, a mark that at the time was the most points scored by a Buff in a single game.
Harvey was the definition of an all-around basketball player. Not only was he an elite offensive player, but he was superb on the defensive side of the ball. During his junior season, the Buffs limited their opponents to just 31.2 points per game and only 37 points per game in his senior campaign. His ability to alter shots and grab defensive rebounds made Colorado one of the top defensive teams in the nation.
His athletic career didn’t end after college. After CU, Harvey enjoyed success on the AAU level with the Denver American Legion team and the Denver Nuggets. He earned All-American honors with both teams in 1941 and 1942 before joining the Armed Services in 1943.
Harvey was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
As great a player as Jack Harvey was on the court, it was nothing compared to the man he was off the court.
Byron “Whizzer” White, a former Supreme Court Justice and teammate of Harvey’s at CU, once described Harvey as a “Man of fine character, devoted to his family and his friends, as well as to the public interest.”
Harvey’s immense athletic success could only be overshadowed by the content of his character.
|Jack Harvey reamins CU's only two-time All-American in basketball.
“Jack was so much more than a good athlete. He was a man of high intellectual capacity and curiosity,” said James Johnson, a friend of Harvey’s and a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives. “He took a fatherly interest in a young man whose father had died, and it was typical of his conduct that it was only by accident that I ever heard of it.”
Harvey’s modesty was what struck so many people. A classic example is how he attributed his athletic success. Harvey — a two time All-American and one of the great college basketball players of all time — attributed his success to the fact that his ears were big and that they distracted his opponents.
“He could cast a fly as gently as anyone and shoot as straight as anyone, but the stories he told were generally about the fish he lost or the birds he missed,” said Johnson.
Harvey’s modesty struck people, but his humor attracted people.
“We all know about his temper — but his humor would return shortly after one of his tantrums and how many of you in the congregation received flowers after his remorse set in,” said Johnson during Harvey’s funeral in 1981. “He used to say he would have been a rich man if he hadn’t had to send out so many bouquets to people he had insulted.”
A classic Harvey story of humor occurred when one of his good friends was in the hospital awaiting surgery. There was a watch lying on the bedside table next to his friend. Jack went to his friend and asked, “Is this the best watch you have?” His friend responded, “Yes, why?” To which Jack replied, “Well, if anything goes wrong, I want a memento, but I’d like something nicer than this old cheap watch.”
Harvey had a compassionate side as well. When his friend’s daughter had a tumor removed, he cried when he found out it wasn’t malignant. He was so happy that his friend’s daughter was going to be alright that he celebrated that night. The next morning when he woke up, he said that he felt worse than if he’d had the operation himself.
His modesty and humor led him to be an integral part in the growth of the city of Fort Collins, Colo. After serving as a pilot in WWII, he settled in Fort Collins where he became a well-respected business man and the president of the Chamber of Commerce.
In 1959, Harvey joined the Fort Collins City Council and was chosen as mayor for the next two years. During his time as mayor, Harvey helped establish some of the guidelines that have made Fort Collins one of the fastest-growing cities in America.
Dynamic on and off the court, Harvey was athlete, a husband, a father, and friend. He served his country, his state and the city of Fort Collins.
During Harvey’s eulogy, Johnson said a more fitting epitaph for Jack would be Hamlet’s remarks about his father, “He was a man; take him for all in all, we shall not look upon his like again.”
Jack Harvey’s competitiveness and temper on the court, paired with him modesty and humor off the court, truly made him a unique man. In life very little is certain, but one thing is certain in regards to Jack Harvey; we shall not look upon his like again.