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Commentary — Steve Vassallo Talks to Rebel Star Johnny Neuman

Johnny Neuman then and now.

One of the many benefits from going to Ole Miss and living in Oxford is the interaction with so many great athletes. 
Of all the outstanding basketball players who have played for the Rebels, Johnny Neumann is certainly among the very best. For those of us who were not around in 1971, Johnny was one of the top recruited players in the United States from nearby Memphis Overton. While at Ole Miss he led the nation in scoring, which paved the way for a professional career as both a player and coach.
Unfortunately due to a family illness, Johnny had to leave Ole Miss prior to graduating. Now, at age 63, he has once again enrolled at Ole Miss to complete his degree. I caught up with him recently and enjoyed reflecting back on his “glory days” with the Rebs.
Johnny’s greatest thrill with Ole Miss was a game vs. LSU on national television when he scored 63 points contributing to a Rebel victory. And keep in mind, the 3-point shot was years away. There also  was no shot clock, which allowed teams to stall.
I asked Johnny if there was a single shot that stands out in his memory. He replied that he could not recall any one in particular. He went on to say that the fond memories of dorm life with the team (the players stayed in Guess Hall in the early 70’s) have never left his thoughts.
Newman was one of the best scorers in NCAA history.

After his Ole Miss basketball career ended too briefly, Johnny continued professionally in the U.S. and Europe, where he played as well as coached. We discussed the numerous famous people he encountered throughout his career. Johnny met the presidents of a number of different countries in addition to the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia. He also interacted with some of the greatest names in the history of basketball including the legendary coach of Kentucky, Adolph Rupp.
Johnny is currently pursuing a journalism degree at Ole Miss and has just completed a most successful semester. He is currently working with Cannon Motors for the summer and he will return to the classroom in August and has approximately 3 semesters remaining to complete his degree.
Johnny’s two biggest role models were his brother Bob, who was also a great player, and his father who inspired him significantly. I next asked Johnny what he could share with today’s athletes, based  upon his lifetime of experiences. He emphasized the importance of being a team player and being  thankful every day for the talent that was God-given. Be grateful for this blessing, Johnny said.
In closing, I had to speculate with the former nation’s leading scorer what he possibly might average now that there are such things as 3-point shots and shot clocks. He responded …”Only God knows.”
When the Tad Pad is finally gone, the memories will still linger of a winter many years ago when a young man from Memphis took the college basketball world by storm. The friendships that Johnny made in Oxford have endured a lifetime and those of us fortunate to have know him “way back when” now have the pleasure to renew that friendship once again right here in Oxford!
In a closing note, I had the pleasure of announcing the Ole Miss basketball games with my brother George in this era for WCBH.
Steve Vassallo is HottyToddy.com’s newest contributor. Steve will be writing on Ole Miss athletics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. 

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