1917–18 Michigan Wolverines men's basketball team

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1917–18 Michigan Wolverines men's basketball
1917–18 Michigan Wolverines men's basketball team.jpg
Conference Big Ten Conference
1917–18 record 6–12 (0–10 Big Ten)
Head coach Elmer Mitchell
Captain Alan W. Boyd
Home arena Waterman Gymnasium
1917–18 Big Ten Conference men's basketball standings
Conf     Overall
Team W   L   PCT     W   L   PCT
Wisconsin 9 3   .750     14 3   .824
Minnesota 7 3   .700     13 3   .813
Northwestern 5 3   .625     7 4   .636
Illinois 6 6   .500     9 6   .600
Chicago 6 6   .500     14 10   .583
Purdue 5 5   .500     11 5   .688
Ohio State 5 5   .500     12 7   .632
Indiana 3 3   .500     10 4   .714
Iowa 4 6   .400     6 8   .429
Michigan 0 10   .000     6 12   .333
Rankings from AP Poll

The 1917–18 Michigan Wolverines men's basketball team represented the University of Michigan in intercollegiate basketball during the 1917–18 season. The team was Michigan's second varsity basketball team and the first after an eight-year hiatus following the 1908–09 season. With no experienced collegiate players to draw from, the squad started from scratch and compiled a record of 6–12.[1] They finished last in the Big Ten Conference with a record of 0–10 against conference opponents, the only winless conference season in Michigan history.[2]

Elmer Mitchell, a 28-year-old graduate of the University of Michigan, served as the coach. He returned to Michigan in 1917 after having held positions as the athletic director at Grand Rapids Union High School from 1912 to 1915 and at Michigan State Normal College (now known as Eastern Michigan University) from 1915 to 1917. After a difficult start in the 1917–18 season, Mitchell led the team to a 12-game turnaround with a 16–8 record in the 1918–19 season. In 1919, Mitchell established the intramural sports program at Michigan and served as its director.[2]

Alan W. Boyd was the team captain.[3] James McClintock was the team's leading scorer with 108 points on 43 field goals and 22 free throws in 16 games. Timothy Hewlett led in scoring average with 7.0 points per game (22 field goals and 12 free throws in eight games).[4]


Date Opponent Score Result Location
December 15, 1917 Case 27–25 Loss Cleveland, OH
January 1, 1918 Camp Custer 44–28 Win Waterman Gymnasium, Ann Arbor, MI
January 4, 1918 Hope College 31–15 Win Waterman Gymnasium, Ann Arbor, MI
January 5, 1918 Case 24–20 Win Waterman Gymnasium, Ann Arbor, MI
January 11, 1918 Michigan Agricultural College 17–13 Win Waterman Gymnasium, Ann Arbor, MI
January 18, 1918 Indiana 21–17 Loss Waterman Gymnasium, Ann Arbor, MI
January 19, 1918 Chicago 22–6 Loss Bartlett Gymnasium, Chicago, IL
January 21, 1918 Ohio State 37–7 Loss Ohio State Armory, Columbus, OH
January 25, 1918 Minnesota 28–13 Loss Waterman Gymnasium, Ann Arbor, MI
January 26, 1918 Northwestern 21–11 Loss Waterman Gymnasium, Ann Arbor, MI
February 11, 1918 Great Lakes Jackies 34–27 Loss Waterman Gymnasium, Ann Arbor, MI
February 13, 1918 Kalamazoo College 42–8 Win Waterman Gymnasium, Ann Arbor, MI
February 16, 1918 Minnesota 49–10 Loss University of Minnesota Armory, Minneapolis, MN
February 22, 1918 Indiana 21–20 Loss Men's Gymnasium, Bloomington, IN
February 23, 1918 Northwestern 18–14 Loss Patten Gymnasium, Evanston, IL
March 1, 1918 Chicago 22–15 Loss Waterman Gymnasium, Ann Arbor, MI
March 2, 1918 Michigan Agricultural College 31–25 Win Michigan State University Armory, East Lansing, MI
March 9, 1918 Ohio State 34–27 Loss Waterman Gymnasium, Ann Arbor, MI


In early December 1917, the Detroit Free Press wrote that basketball "receives its inception as a major league sport at Michigan this year."[5] The Free Press noted that the game had never been played "on a big scale" in Ann Arbor, and Coach Mitchell had been unable to find experienced players for the team. As a result, the paper opined that Mitchell "will have his hands full putting any sort of a team on the floor."[5]

Coach Mitchell was also the coach of Michigan's freshman football team and was unable to turn his attention to the basketball team until football season had ended. With his ties to the football team, Mitchell recruited several football players to try out for the basketball team, including Alan Boyd, Abe Cohn, Elton Wieman, Richard Weske, Oscar Cartright, William Cruse, and Angus Goetz. Boyd became the team captain, and Cohn was a reserve on Mitchell's team. During late November and early December, Mitchell held scrimmages to identify the best players. Searching for players with some level of experience, Mitchell looked to the class and fraternity teams. James McClintock, who had played center on the sophomore class team, stood out in the early practices. So, too, did Ralph Rychener who had played forward on the championship team of the fraternity-boarding house league.[5]

In the days leading up to the season opener, Mitchell culled the team to 12 players and put them through strenuous conditioning workouts each night as well as passing and shooting drills.[6]

Regular season[edit]

Michigan opened its season on December 15, 1917, with a road game in Cleveland against Case Scientific School. Case had a veteran team that had won the Ohio Conference basketball championship the prior year,[6] and the Wolverines lost the game, 27–25. The Wolverines' performance was hindered by the team's lack of experience, and also by difficulty adjusting to the basketball court in the Case gymnasium, which was much smaller than the court the team had become accustomed to at the Waterman Gymnasium in Ann Arbor.[7] The Wolverines did not play any further games in December.

In late December, the Detroit Free Press noted that three home games set for the first week of January were "expected to arouse interest in the basketball team, a thing which has been noticeable by its absence ever since the practice season started, over a month ago."[7] Coach Mitchell expressed concern that the lack of interest and backing had lowered the spirit of the team.[7]

Over the holidays, the university renovated the basketball court at Waterman Gymnasium. The court was modified to run lengthwise in order to create a larger playing floor, and backboards were hung from the rafters. The Detroit Free Press wrote that the new court "will be one of the largest and best in the state when it is finished."[7]

After a two-week break over the holidays, Michigan won four consecutive home games against the Camp Custer officers' team that featured several former college stars (44–28), Hope College (31–15),[8] Case (24–20),[9] and Michigan Agricultural College (now known as Michigan State University) (17–13), improving its record to 4–1.[7][10]

After the first three victories, the Detroit Free Press wrote that Michigan's basketball team had begun playing together as a team, had started "passing with a vengeance", and was "improving rapidly in every department of the game and rapidly rounding into a first class organization."[11] At the same time, the paper expressed concern over the team's defense and uncertainty as to how the team would hold up against tougher Big Ten opponents.[11]

Michigan played its first Big Ten Conference basketball game at Waterman Gymnasium on January 18, 1918, against Indiana. The Hoosiers defeated the Wolverines, 21–17. With a respectable showing against Indiana, the Detroit Free Press wrote that the team's followers were confident that "fighting spirit" would carry the team to a good record. The Free Press noted that, although the players had been "shooting and passing wildly", they had made up for their lack of experience with "plenty of fight".[12]

Over the next eight days, Michigan played four more games against Big Ten opponents and lost each game: Chicago (22-6), Ohio State (39-7),[13] Minnesota (28-13), and Northwestern (21-11).[10]

After the January 26 game against the Northwestern, the team had a two-week, mid-season break. Over the break, Coach Mitchell made several changes in his lineup. He announced that, for the remaining games, he would play Rychener and McClintock at forward, Bartz at center, and Emery and Boyd at the guard positions.[14]

The Detroit Free Press opined in early February that a lack of confidence had caused the players to "miss many easy shots, gum up passes, and lose their heads at a critical moment."[14]

After the break, the team lost to the Great Lakes Jackies to extend the team's losing streak to six games. The losing streak, which began against Indiana on January 18, 1918, and continued through the Great Lakes game on February 11, 1918, was a school record that was not broken for 26 years.[15]

The team broke its losing streak with a 42–8 victory over Kalamazoo College on February 13, 1918. Three consecutive losses followed against Minnesota (49–10), Indiana (21–20), and Chicago (22–15).[16] The Wolverines then completed a season sweep of Michigan Agricultural College, winning by a score of 31 to 25 in East Lansing.[10][17] The Wolverines concluded the season with a 34–27 loss to Ohio State on March 9, 1918.[18][19]

Critical assessment of the first season[edit]

The Michigan Alumnus summarized the season as follows: "Although the standing of the Michigan basketball team in the Conference is not a thing to be proud of, there can be few objections to the basketball team that Mitchell was able to turn out in the first year of the sport here. At the beginning of the season there was only one experienced man, Hanish, on hand, and Hanish left before the end of the first semester. Bartz and Rowley, good players, were also forced out of the game, the latter from injuries and the former from poor scholastic work."[10]

The 1918 Michiganensian wrote:

"Though failing to win a single Conference game, and suffering defeats in 12 of 18 games played, Michigan's first Varsity basketball team did not have such an unsuccessful season as the records would seem to indicate. The Wolverines started the year without an experienced player on hand and Coach Mitchell was not only forced to build a new team -- he was also obligated to get that team into such condition that it could face the best fives in the Big Ten. . . Though more was hoped of the Michigan five, little more could have been expected. The Wolverines were meeting experienced teams in Conference basketball and the Blue players were forced to learn the fundamentals and fine points at the same time. Mitchell worked hard to get a winning combination, but succeeded mostly in preparing his men for next year."[20][21]

The Detroit Free Press summed up Michigan's first season of varsity basketball with this headline: "Wolverines' Court Year Not in Vain: Much Has Been Accomplished by Coach Mitchell and His Proteges for First Season."[22] The Free Press emphasized that Coach Mitchell began the season without a single experienced player, noted that the team had "gained greatly" in experience and form, and concluded that expectations had been too high among the fans in Ann Arbor:

"At the start of the basketball year there was little hope held out for a Michigan triumph in the indoor game. The campus, not quite understanding the nature of the competition Michigan had to face, hoped for bigger things than lay within the realms of possibility. But, when the situation was once made clear, the students supported the team, despite its losses, and have been quite enthusiastic over its development."[22]

Post-season awards[edit]

At the end of the season, six players were awarded varsity "M" letters for their participation on the 1917-18 men's basketball team: Alan W. Boyd, John H. Emery, Timothy Y. Hewlitt, James I. McClintock, Ralph O. Rychener, and Edward E. Ruzicka. Two players were given aMA letters: Nicholas B. Bartz and Samuel C. Bornstein. Three players were given "R" letters as reserves: Cress, Rowley, and Cohn.[18] In early April 1918, the six players who won "M's" met and selected "Doc" Emery to serve as captain of the 1918-19 team.[23]


  • Nicholas B. Bartz - center and aMa letter winner; forced to leave the team before the end of the season due to academic deficiency
  • Samuel C. Bornstein - forward and aMa letter winner
  • Alan W. Boyd - captain, varsity letter winner and guard
  • Abe Cohn - reserve (varsity letter winner in football)
  • Elmer W. Cress - reserve
  • John H. "Doc" Emery - forward and varsity letter winner
  • Hanish - left the team early in the season
  • Timothy Y. Hewlett - forward and varsity letter winner
  • Curtis C. Latir - center
  • James I. McClintock - forward and varsity letter winner
  • Howard H. Rowley, Rochester, New York - reserve (medical student, Class of 1920); left the team early due to injury
  • Edward Ewan Ruzicka - guard and varsity letter winner
  • Ralph O. Rychener - guard and varsity letter winner

Scoring statistics[edit]

Player Games Field goals Free throws Points Points per game[4]
James McClintock 16 43 22 108 6.8
John Emery 16 29 1 59 3.7
Timothy Y. Hewlett 8 22 12 56 7.0
Edward Ruzicka 14 2 29 33 2.4
Ralph O. Rychener 14 15 1 31 2.2
Nicholas Bartz 11 13 0 26 2.4
Curtis Later 9 8 0 16 1.8
Hanish 3 5 0 10 3.3
Samuel Bornstein 10 3 1 7 0.7
Abe Cohn 4 3 0 6 1.5
Alan Boyd 13 1 0 2 0.2
Total 16 144 66 354 22.1
  • The scoring statistics do not include the team's December 15, 1917 game against Case Scientific School.[4]

Coaching staff[edit]


  1. ^ "University of Michigan Basketball Record Book" (PDF). University of Michigan. p. 2. 
  2. ^ a b "University of Michigan Basketball Record Book" (PDF). University of Michigan. p. 12. 
  3. ^ 1918 Michiganensian, page 301.
  4. ^ a b c "University of Michigan Basketball Record Book" (PDF). University of Michigan. p. 22. (Team scoring statistics do not include the December 15, 1917 game against Case Scientific School.)
  5. ^ a b c "Wolverines Hope To Have a Successful Season on Courts First Year: Material Plentiful and Coach Mitchell is Whipping It Into Shape for Heavy Schedule -- Football Team Fine Bunch of Recruits for the Speedy Indoor Pastime this Winter -- Heavy Schedule Ahead". Detroit Free Press. December 2, 1917. p. 24. 
  6. ^ a b "U. of M. Basket Shooters Off for Cleveland: Game with Case Scientific School Marks Restart in Court Game for the Maize and Blue". Detroit Free Press. December 14, 1917. p. 17. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Ann Arbor Students to be Entertained by Three Court Games in Waterman Gym: Mitchell's Basketball Squad Tackles Camp Custer, Hope and Case the First Week of the New Year at University Town; Campus Lacking in Support of Team; Coach Mitchell Attributes This as Reason for Five's Failure to Show Desired Pep in Its Play". Detroit Free Press. December 30, 1917. p. 14. 
  8. ^ "Wolverines Win Opening Cage Contest: Michigan Basketballers Land 31 to 15 Victory Over Hope Five by Sheer Force; Showing of Quintet Not Satisfactory; McClintock is Chief Scorer of Game but Fails to Get Into Teamwork". Detroit Free Press. January 5, 1918. p. 9. 
  9. ^ "Wolverines Even Count with Case: Stage Late Rally to Gain 24 to 20 Verdict Over Ohio Conference Champ Outfit". Detroit Free Press. January 6, 1918. p. 20. 
  10. ^ a b c d "The Basketball Season". The Michigan Alumnus. March 1918. pp. 368–369. 
  11. ^ a b "Wolverines Soon to Begin Attack on Conference College Basketball Teams: Boys Representing Michigan on the Court Have Improved Wonderfully in the Past Two Weeks and Are Ready Now; U. of M. Five Is Rounding Into Shape; Wolverines Improving Rapidly in Every Department and Confidence Increases". Detroit Free Press. January 6, 1918. p. 23. 
  12. ^ "Ann Arbor Waking Up to Fact That Michigan Has Good Basketball Troupe: Campus Looking with Confidence on the Approaching Hard Games with the Best of the Conference College Teams; Wolverines Ought to be Fairly Good; Coach Mitchell Has Rounded Out Team That Can Be Depended Upon; Boys Are Versatile if Nothing Else; Show Merit in Any Position Mentor Places Them; Squad Is Big One and Ambitious". Detroit Free Press. January 20, 1918. p. 17. 
  13. ^ "Michigan Is Short Ender at Columbus: Chio State Outclasses the Maize and Blue, Davies Proving Star of Encounter". Detroit Free Press. January 22, 1918. p. 11. 
  14. ^ a b "Maize and Blue Basketeers Underestimate Their Own Court Game Ability: More Self-Esteem Would Probably Prove Good Tonic for Coach Mitchell's Much-Kicked About Troupe of Pastimers; Lack of Confidence Is Big Setback for Quintet Representing Michigan; This Fault, More Than Anything Else, Has Hurt Chances of Wolverines in Their Court Conquests". Detroit Free Press. February 3, 1918. p. 13. 
  15. ^ "University of Michigan Basketball Record Book" (PDF). University of Michigan. p. 5. 
  16. ^ "Chicago Five Trims U. of M. in Fast Game: Ann Arbor Put Up Good Contest but Loses to illinois Basketball Team, 22 to 15". Detroit Free Press. March 2, 1918. p. 11. 
  17. ^ 1918 Michiganensian, page 304.
  18. ^ a b "Six Basketball "Ms" Awarded". The Michigan Alumnus. April 1918. p. 444. 
  19. ^ "Ohio State Is Seven Points Better Quintet: This is Margin the Buckeyes Gain After Great Scrap With Wolverines to Close Court Season". Detroit Free Press. March 10, 1918. p. 18. 
  20. ^ 1918 Michiganensian, page 302.
  21. ^ 1918 Michiganensian, page 303.
  22. ^ a b "Wolverines' Court Year Not in Vain: Much Has Been Accomplished by Coach Mitchell and His Proteges for First Season; Boyd Is Mentioned as Star Candidate". Detroit Free Press. March 3, 1918. p. 17. 
  23. ^ "'Doc' Emery Will Guide Michigan's 1919 Court Five". Detroit Free Press. April 7, 1918. p. 22.