Ron Baxter and Abe Lemmons- A duo that changed Texas Longhorn Basketball History.
In the book Abe Lemons Court Magician by Bob Burke and Kenny Franks Abe Lemons is quoted as saying I like to recruit “a wild guy, somebody that’s stung by a bee.” “ I like a wild horse that just tears up the gym.” “ I like people with unusual characteristics that you can calm down and help make something of. Abe liked players that had been given nicknames from his teammates such as “adding machine” or the “helicopter”
On his first recruiting trip to California he found an individual that had those qualities.
Ron Baxter was one of Abe Lemmons first great recruits at Texas . Ron was the high school co-player of the year in Los Angeles. Abe says “ I saw him (Ron) play against the Russians”. “The Russians even brought their own official”. “Talk about a crook”. The local paper after the game says “Russians introduce six-man basketball to the U.S”. Abe saw a lot of potential in Ron during the game even though Coach Lemons criticized his play saying “ Baxter passes too much , though. Doesn’t shoot enough”. “Shot only twice against the Russian”. “He made one.” Abe knew that Ron was a great athlete and just needed a coach who would encourage him to shoot more.
Ron says he chose UT over other schools because Abe convinced him he could be part of a building program. In the book “You Scored One More Point Than a Dead Man” organized by Robert Heard Ron Baxter says about Coach Lemons “There was none of this, You’ll have breakfast at 7 and do such and such at 8:00 and …..” “He did not act like a coach”. Baxter also liked his style and tart tongue. “ He cut me up pretty good for not moving down the baseline when I was inbounding against a full court press, and he told me I couldn’t get open (for a shot) if a dead man was guarding me, and that I couldn’t hit the basket with a shotgun.”
In the book Abe Lemons Court Magician by Bob Burke and Kenny Franks Ron tells a story about how he learned the difference between Abe coaching at practice and Abe at all other times . He says “From the moment he grabbed my shirt, I knew this man was business in practice. He might have said some funny things to loosen us up, but he demanded my attention every moment in every exercise. I knew if I wanted to play , I had to go all out in practice.”
Baxter loved the Lemons system saying “It’s take the quick, good shot”. “You just play basketball”. “If you can get open inside 20 feet, you take your shot”. “We ran a stack to get the ball to Jim Krivacs on the baseline”. “If not, it’s free lance and go one on one”. Ron Baxter says Lemon coached to his players ability”. He does not “make them fit into a system”. “ He is the best sideline coach in the nation”.
Abe was not one to pass out compliments easily. The player had to earn his praise. Abe says about Ron “ From the standpoint of basketball instinct ,and the ability to do so many things so well, he’s as good a freshman as I’ve ever had”.
Ron had a great baseline shot that helped the 1976 team improve from 9-17 in 1975 to a 13-13 team in 1976. By the end of 1977 Ron Baxter was CO-MVP of the NIT tournament scoring 26 points. In all 4 tournament games he scored 71 points and had a a tournament high 41 rebounds. Marquette’s 6-10” Jerome Whitehead said about Baxter “they had a 6’4” guy (Ron Baxter) who was pounding everybody up.”
“ Ron says about Lemmons match up zone defense. His (Lemmons) defenses are extremely complex, but they’re effective. A couple of teams ….had no idea of how to attack our defense, they didn’t even know what defense we were running.”
Ron Baxter ends his career as SWC player of the year and as the all-time school leader in scoring and rebounding.
After two years at Tyler Junior College, Blacklock signed with Texas. He joined the Longhorns one year after Sam Bradley became the first black player for the Longhorn basketball team. Bradley averaged 6.5 points per game during the 1969-70 season, but Blacklock quickly took on the starring role averaging 16.6 points per game. He was the team’s MVP for the 1970-71 season, and Coach Black named him captain of the 1972 team. The 19 wins in 1972 was the most for a Longhorn basketball team in 24 years. The 1972 team also shared the SWC championship for the first time in seven years.
Blacklock says he developed respect for a few of his teammates, but that admiration did not lead to any friendships. He wasn’t helped by any teammates when he got into a fight during a game at Mississippi. He told the Austin American Statesman “I think had I been a player of a different race, (the experience) would have been beautiful, incredible, but I wasn’t,” Blacklock said. “I loved the ball-playing, I loved the education. Socially, it was a disaster.”
After graduation he chose to joined the Harlem Globetrotters as a player and then as a coach. He returned to Austin only one time in 30 years. It was only after he was inducted into the Hall of Honor in 2016 that he finally felt appreciated for his accomplishments For the first time he realized that he played an important part in the history of Longhorn sports.