Thirty years ago during March Madness, a young basketball beast with a Disney character name left his permanent imprint on the game of college basketball.
Fennis Dembo’s incredible basketball prowess often went unrecognized while playing for the unheralded University of Wyoming program, but Dembo was one of the most dominant players in the country at that time, finishing his career as the Cowboys' all-time leading scorer and rebounder, accumulating more than 2,300 points and 950 boards.
In 1987, Dembo’s underestimated squad was entering the NCAA Tournament for only the third time in the school’s history.
Dembo elevated his draft stock and the basketball props given to Laramie, Wyoming, as he outclassed All-American after All-American. First, Dembo and company bested No. 5 seed Virginia who was led by the great NBA Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson, 64-60 in the opening round. But it was Wyoming’s second-round matchup that put Dembo on the map and made the country take notice.
Wyoming would face high-octane UCLA, whose roster showcased the likes of future NBA killers Reggie Miller and Pooh Richardson.
Dembo left no question about who the dominant player in the building was. On that night, his brilliance couldn’t be duplicated and he delivered what many still say is the greatest single performance in NCAA tourney history, pouring in 41 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out six assists while hitting 9-of-14 from the field and draining all 16 of free throw attempts. He was Russell Westbrook before Westbrook on this night.
Unfortunately for Wyoming, their magical run ended against No. 1 seed UNLV, a legendary squad in the annals of college basketball history with way too much firepower for a one-man show to handle.
Dembo, however didn’t disappoint. He battled the likes of Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony to score 27 points on 10 of 15 shooting. He also snagged nine boards and handed out four assists. His three-game run, averaging 27.8 points per game, gave him the highest scoring average of any player in the 1987 NCAA tournament and marked the greatest run in recent memory of the Wyoming Cowboys basketball program. The following season, Dembo graced the cover of Sports Illustrated’s College Preview issue.
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