#55 Les Witte


SportBasketball
HometownLincoln
Born1911
Died1973

Les Witte had a real dilemma.

After leading Lincoln High to the 1930 state basketball championship, Witte had two choices: follow his six older siblings, who had attended Nebraska, or join his older brother, Dutch, who had become coach at Wyoming.

Les Witte headed for Laramie, but his freshman year wasn’t easy, said his son, Bill. Most of the players on the team were Wyoming natives. Initially, he wasn't welcomed with open arms.

"There was a little ridicule," Bill Witte said. "He almost quit."

His son said that criticism fueled his father's passion for the game. "He didn't want them thinking he was playing because of the coach being his brother," Bill Witte said.

Soon, no one doubted Les Witte's talents. A left-hander with a nearly unstoppable fadeaway hook, Witte became a three-time All-American (1932-34). He was the first collegian to score more than 1,000 points in a career (1,069), earning him the nickname "One Grand Witte."

Witte's 26-3 Wyoming team of 1934 was retroactively selected as the national champion by the Helms Athletic Foundation, the only collegiate poll of the era. The NCAA tournament didn’t begin until 1939.

Witte ended his collegiate career the same way he did his high school one. Lincoln High lost in the regionals in 1930 but qualified as a "team at large" and went ahead to win its seventh Class A title, beating Kearney in the final 27-16. Witte scored 12 points for the Links. He also played football as part of Lincoln High's 23-0-2 squads from 1927-29.

Les Witte died in 1973, and when he was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, Bill Witte accepted on his behalf. "I could not believe how many people said they remembered him playing," he said.

Quick facts about Witte

Played for: Lincoln High and Wyoming Cowboys

Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: A good candidate would be Bernie Masterson, a Lincoln High teammate. Masterson earned All-Big Six honors in football at Nebraska and was a quarterback for the Chicago Bears from 1934 to 1940.

Best moment as an athlete: In 1934, Witte's 26-3 Wyoming team was selected as the national champion by the Helms Athletic Foundation, the only collegiate voting poll of the era.

At Wyoming: 1,069 points


Nebraska 100: 2005 edition

Witte was No. 49 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »