Mizzou's Greatest, #83: Al Eberhard

The Savitar

Strong as a horse, smart as a whip, bigger than most, but small for his position, hard-working Al Eberhard helped power the Tigers to their first two 20-win seasons. He also combined with John Brown to give Mizzou its best frontcourt tandem in decades, maybe ever. As a sophomore, Eberhard established himself as a force, earning the first of his three MVP trophies at the Big Eight Holiday Tournament (he scored 33 to help defeat Kansas State in the final) and finishing second on the team in scoring and rebounding behind Brown. Big Al (he stood 6’5" but defended men a half-foot taller) was even better as a junior, averaging 17.0 points and 9.3 rebounds. As a senior, Eberhard stepped out of the departed Brown’s shadow. He was named first team All-Big Eight while averaging 19.7 points and 12.0 rebounds per contest. With 16.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game (third-best all-time), Eberhard is one of only four Tigers ever to average a career double-double.

Al Eberhard posted a 20 (points) and 15 (rebounds) in his debut against Michigan State. He won MVP honors of the Big 8 holiday tournament as a sophomore with a huge finals performance against Kansas State. And for his sophomore season as a whole, he averaged 14 points and nine rebounds and, with a lot of help from John Brown, he led the Tigers to a 21-6 finish, an NIT appearance (still a rather big deal in 1972), and their best season in more than 40 years. From Michael Atchison's True Sons:

The 21-6 record was the best since the 1930 Big Six champs went 15-3. But a terrific year came close to being a season for the ages. Only one loss, a 93-80 defeat at Kansas, was lopsided. The other five were nail-biters, two by a single point each, and the others by two, three and four points, respectively, leaving the Tigers to wonder what might have been had Bob Allen remained healthy.

The next year, an all-time performance from Eberhard, again in the Big 8 holiday tournament, pushed Mizzou into the AP Top 5 for the first time. Atchison:

There, the Tigers faced 16th-ranked Kansas State. Al Eberhard, hampered by an ankle injury, could hardly walk, and could not be stopped. With the score tied at 62, Mizzou reeled off 11 straight points, seven by Eberhard. His 24 points led all scorers, and Orv Salmon – who had been Norm Stewart’s neighbor as a kid in Cedar Falls, Iowa – added 20 to secure an 82-72 victory and Missouri’s second straight Big Eight Tournament title. "I want to tell you guys something," a joyous Norm Stewart said to the press after the game. "That Al Eberhard played a tremendous game and we didn’t know until game time if he could play."

Mizzou once again went 21-6, sweeping Kansas and once again reaching the NIT. And though their 1973-74 campaign would not go as planned, one couldn't blame Eberhard for that. Alongside a senior named Gary Link and a supporting cast full of freshmen and sophomores, Eberhard averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Eberhard was an easy choice for Mizzou's All-Century team in 2006.

* Position: Forward

* Lettered: 1972-73-74

* Hometown: Springville, Iowa

Ranks #17 on the MU career scoring chart with 1,347 points (16.8 ppg) ... Also ranks #9 on the MU career rebounding list, with 806 ... Career rebounding average of 10.1 rpg ranks #3 on the MU career list ... 1st-Team All-Big Eight in 1974 ... An outstanding rebounder who had 20 more rebounds in a game 3 times in his career ... His 313 rebounds as a senior in 1974 is the 4th-most in MU single-season history ... Team captain in 1974 ... Inducted into the Missouri Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003 ... Drafted in the 1st round of the 1974 NBA Draft (15th pick overall) by the Detroit Pistons ...

Eberhard showed serious promise in his second season with the Pistons, averaging nine points and five boards per game. But that was the peak of his brief career. Instead, his legacy is both as a bridge between the John Brown and Willie Smith eras in Columbia and as one of the best rebounders to ever set foot on the Hearnes Center floor.

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