C.A. Core’s basketball-playing days at Southeastern Louisiana ended almost 50 years ago. But to this day, no other SLU player has surpassed Core’s season or career scoring and rebounding averages.
His records — 22.3 points per game as a freshman in 1964-65 and 21.3 for his career; a mind-boggling 18.5 rebounds per game as a senior in 1967-68 and 15.4 for his career; and his career totals of 2,046 points and 1,475 rebounds — figure to stand for a long, long time.
Core — C.A. stood for Charles Alvin but his teammates called him “Moon” — was a 6-foot-6 forward from Noblesville, Indiana, who was pretty much unrecruited in his home state. But he led SLU in scoring and rebounding for four seasons, in which he started every game. Core is also the school’s lone basketball All-American — in the NAIA ranks as a junior and senior.
Small wonder that Core’s No. 34 is the only retired jersey in program history — and now he's getting statewide recognition as a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame's 2017 class. The induction ceremony is Saturday in Natchitoches.
“He’s the measuring stick,” said Don Wilson, a teammate of Core’s and a former Lions assistant and head coach. “I don’t think there’s been anybody since (at SLU) who could have handled that guy.”
Core, who died in 1986 of a heart attack at age 41, is the first Southeastern male athlete to make the state hall of fame.
“C.A. is a true icon at Southeastern,” said Larry Hymel, who went from a student to the school’s sports information director during Core’s time there. “He put Southeastern basketball on the map and left a great legacy.”
To Lee Core, who married C.A. in the summer of 1966 after his sophomore season, this honor is better late than never.
“C.A. was a very humble person who never sought accolades and all of that stuff,” she said. “Now, if he had lived and remained in coaching, it might have been different. But because he died so young, I don’t believe he ever thought about it. ... It’s still a great honor. I just wish he were here to enjoy it."
Core’s belated election is somewhat understandable. He effectively never played after college. He came out of a two-year hitch in the Army with little desire for the professional lifestyle, even though he had been drafted by NBA and ABA teams.
And although Core enjoyed great success, Southeastern had only one winning season during his time there. Considering that the Lions had had seven straight nonwinning seasons before Core’s arrival, that’s an improvement, but not a program-changer. SLU had four more losing seasons after Core graduated, making the 17-8 mark in 1965-66 the school’s only one better than .500 between 1957 and 1973.
Core and the Lions’ most memorable game came not in that one winning campaign but in the next season opener against LSU. It was Southeastern’s first game against the Tigers, and Wilson said Core spent the days leading up to it pumping up his teammates.
“He’d have breakfast at home and then come the cafeteria where the rest of us were and go around to everybody saying, ‘We’re going to beat LSU. We’re going to beat LSU,’ ” Wilson recalled. “He’d say, ‘If we beat LSU, everybody else in Louisiana is going to have to stop and take a look at us.' "
The game at the Parker Agricultural Center was the first for new LSU coach Press Maravich, who promised a “new era” for Tigers basketball. That ended up being a year away, because Maravich’s son, Pete, was a freshman and ineligible for the varsity team.
As Core promised, Southeastern prevailed, winning 89-88 before a disbelieving capacity crowd of 8,000. Core had 28 points and 22 rebounds, including the final go-ahead basket on a putback with 35 seconds to go and a crucial rebound with 11 seconds left.
“Everybody at the game from Southeastern went absolutely berserk,” Lee Core said. “C.A. was so thrilled. We were this little school named Southeastern Louisiana College, and we’d gone to Baton Rouge and beaten LSU.”
After his senior year, Core signed with the ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals, but it was the peak of the Vietnam War. Despite efforts to get Core into a reserve unit, he wound up serving two years — mainly in West Germany, where he stayed in shape by playing for the base’s team.
Core got out in time in go to 1970 training camp with Dallas but came home after a few days, telling his wife he had lost his desire to play.
But Core never lost his love of basketball. He became a coach, first at St. Bernard High School near Lee’s hometown of Violet, and then at Slidell High and finally then newly opened Northshore High in Slidell.
By 1986, C.A. and Lee had settled into a comfortable lifestyle in Slidell with their 4-year-old daughter Chelsea. On Monday of Thanksgiving week, he went for a physical to become a certified bus driver. When an irregular heartbeat was discovered, he was admitted to the hospital.
During the early hours of Thanksgiving morning, he died.
Lee said she has dated a few times since, but she never found anyone who could compare to C.A. Three decades later, that holds true for those close to SLU basketball.
“He was the kind of player you build a program around,” Wilson said. “And as good as he was, Moon was just as humble and down to earth as any person you could meet.
“I miss that boy. I really still miss that boy.”