Before the 1930s, nobody ever thought to jump into the air when shooting a basketball. The jump shot revolutionized the game, starting at the college level and eventually spreading into the professional ranks. But independent of that, by the side of a barn west of Republic, Missouri, Jack Trogdon was figuring it on his own.
“I don’t remember much (about it). The only thing I can think is we were outside–we played on the side of a barn. My brother and sister were older than me, and I think it was getting the shot over them or something,” Trogdon says.
Whatever the reason, Jack Trogdon’s jump shot became an offensive weapon that allowed him to rise above his defenders and become a high school basketball star.
“There weren’t a lot of jump shooters that came in before that. I got all my notoriety shooting the jump shot,” he says.
At a time when every school, regardless of size, competed for the same championship, Trogdon and the Tigers earned their way into the 16-team state tournament in 1948 and 1949. They were representing a town with a population of only about 950.
In the years before he arrived at Republic High School, Trogdon attended St. Elmo country school about five miles west of Republic. At the time, Republic drew students from several nearby schools. During Trogdon’s time at St. Elmo, he became friends with another future Tiger.
“We had a little kid (named) Jimmie Blades. We grew up about a half-mile apart,” Trogdon says. “We went to country school for eight years, so we played softball and basketball and everything. He was a guard. He was smaller.”
Trogdon and Blades’ experience together paid dividends later. Under the rules at the time, it was illegal for coaches to give instruction from the sideline while the game was going on. That meant players were responsible for calling their own plays.
“We sat out there and when they’d call timeout, we couldn’t go talk to Coach,” Trogdon remembers. “I’d get a lot of…one-on-one defenses, and I’d say ‘Don’t worry, just set a pick here. I’ll just brush him off.”
Over the course of the season, Trogdon and the Tigers developed several plays they would use at key moments in the game.
Besides his jump shot, Trogdon says another thing set him apart from other players: his competitiveness
“Everybody plays, and I’m usually kind of nonchalant, but I very much wanted to win. It was my personality. We didn’t lose too much.”
In 1947-48, the Tigers lost even less than before. Led by the “Two Jacks,” Trogdon and Jack Fraka, Republic won the Greene County League. The Tigers then earned their way into the one-class state Championship Tournament for the first time ever. That put them among the top 16 of all teams in the state, regardless of school size. It also meant they would be competing against dominant teams from St. Louis, Kansas City, and other larger communities.
In the opening round, Republic (26-7) played Maryville (33-1). The Spoofhounds were led by future college All-American Bill Stauffer (who later attended Missouri). The book Looking Back…A Memoir of Republic Sports chronicles the Tigers’ tournament experience. The Springfield Leader-Press sports page summed up the opening-round game:
“Jack Trogdon who played a tiptop floor game, and helped Fraka bottle up Stauffer during the second half, got 14 points to pace the Republic offense.” The Tigers won, advancing to play St. Louis Cleveland (25-1).
Facing Cleveland’s high-powered offense, Republic’s championship run ended in a 58-49 quarterfinal loss. Trogdon again excelled, scoring 26 points–most of them on what the Kansas City Star/Times called “beautiful jump shots.”
That “beautiful jump shot” earned all-state honors for Trogdon, who became the first Tiger to win that designation.
In Trogdon’s senior season the following year, Republic again won the Greene County League and again returned to the 16-team state tournament. Despite a loss in the opening round to John Burroughs (18-2), Republic ended with an all-time best 28-3 record. Trogdon was named to the all-state team again.
For all the team’s success, one individual accomplishment may have earned Trogdon more recognition in Republic than any other. During a game against Ash Grove as a senior, Trogdon poured in 53 points. It was not only a school record at the time, it was thought to be a single-game scoring record for the entire state of Missouri.
“I remember the game, but I don’t remember scoring (a lot). It wasn’t like now, they keep feeding them to score, score, score,” Trogdon says. “I didn’t realize until later on. Wilfred Land came down after the game and he said, ‘You had 53 or 54.’ I said, ‘Really?’ It didn’t mean that much to me because we won the game by probably 20. If it had been a two-point game and I’d scored three and won it, I’d have remembered that better.”
Trogdon’s record stood for three decades, until Greg Garton scored 54 points in a game in 1982. Current record-holder (and 2016 Hall of Fame inductee) John Wakeman later scored 56.
Trogdon says he’s proud of the legacy of success left behind by his basketball teams in the late 40s. Although they’ve often been overlooked, their role in establishing a winning tradition at Republic helped lead to the teams of the 1960s, who dominated southwest Missouri basketball.
Their success “meant a lot to the town,” Trogdon says. “Another thing you’ve got to remember, there wasn’t any television then. So consequently, the people in town either went to the games or listened on the radio.
“The town really supported the school back then. It wasn’t a very big town and it wasn’t a very big gym, but they’d fill it up. The merchants and everybody, they just packed that old gym to watch us play.”
- All-state Basketball (1948, 1949)
- Led Republic to its first state tournament appearances in 1948 and 1949, including a quarterfinal appearance in 1948.
- Scored 53 points in a single game vs. Ash Grove, a record that stood for more than 30 years