CHERRY GROVE - A lot of athletes and would-be athletes enter the Beechmont Racquet Club in Cherry Grove (right at the Hamilton County/Clermont County line) on a daily basis.
Some have gone on to play in college and some already have. Occasionally, a pro or a former pro athlete may make an appearance. However, at least three days a week, a former national champion holds court in between doing over 100 curls and peddling on a cycle machine.
Because it happened in 1961, 60 years ago this March, many aren't aware. If you didn't know better, Bob Wiesenhahn is just another older guy getting his work in, talking politics and rehashing whatever games were of interest over the weekend.
Those heading to the facility's basketball court probably have walked by him not knowing that he played on three Final Four teams at the University of Cincinnati and was part of their first NCAA national championship in 1961. Not only were they not born yet, but their parents were also not likely yet of this existence.
Wiesenhahn was not just a member of the squad, he was a three-year starter. Coming out of McNicholas in 1957 he had to wait a year as freshmen weren't eligible. They did have freshman games (Bearkittens they were called) and many will tell you they outdrew the varsity when one Oscar Robertson hit the floor.
"It went fast," Wiesenhahn said of the 60 years gone by. "My roommate and I, Carl Bouldin had the record for most Final Fours, then they changed the rule when freshmen were eligible."
During his varsity years with Robertson and the national championship years to follow, the games were played on campus at the Armory Fieldhouse. The building still exists, but younger fans may not realize the facility attached to Fifth Third Arena once housed 8,000 strong during basketball season.
"It was at max almost all the time," Wiesenhahn said.
Wiesenhahn was a year behind The Big O, but started with him in his first two seasons, averaging 6.2 points and 6.4 rebounds as a sophomore and 7.5 and 6.8 rebounds as a junior. Those were good numbers considering Robertson averaged over 30 per game. Though UC under then-coach George Smith made the national semifinals those years, they finished third winning the now non-existent consolation game in 1959 and 1960.
Enter Ed Jucker, Smith's assistant. With Smith taking over as athletic director, Jucker instituted a more deliberate style over the previous running ways. Initially, it wasn't popular. By Dec. 23, 1960 UC has lost to Seton Hall, Saint Louis and Bradley and was 4-3.
Then, they didn't lose again. 22 victories later they hoisted the trophy in Kansas City taking down a powerhouse Ohio State team that featured a pair of future NBA players in Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek.
Wiesenhahn averaged a double-double that season (17.1 points and 10 rebounds) though that terminology was unknown. Ditto for the three-point shot. He was assigned to guard "Hondo" Havlicek in the title game. All he did was outscore him 17 to four and outrebound him nine to four. UC won the game 70-65 in overtime.
"He was taller than me but I was a lot stronger than him," Wiesenhahn said. "I knew what he was going to do so I just stepped in front of him and kept him from where he wanted to go.It seemed to work out for us because Lucas gave us trouble. I beat Havilicek pretty good and Carl Bouldin had three or four jumpers in a row in the second half. He could shoot."
Notable was the team's local flavor. Wiesenhahn was from McNick, with Bouldin from Norwood. Future UC coach Tony Yates was from Lockland Wayne, Tom Thacker was from Covington Grant, Dale Heidotting was from Greenhills and Tom Sizer was from Middletown.
"We had a good bunch of guys," Wiesenhahn said. "Everybody got along pretty good. The team was from around town."
If you've ever visited UC's Lindner Center adjacent to Fifth Third Arena, you've probably seen Bob Wiesenhahn's photo near the trophy. Going on 82 in December, the former burly, bruising forward has enjoyed taking his grandchildren to view the memory.
"I enjoy seeing that thing," Wiesenhahn admits. "We played a healthy Ohio State team. The next year, Lucas was hurt. He twisted his knee."
Though the years have maybe taken him down a peg from his playing height of 6'4" in his Converse, he's still around his playing weight of 220 pounds. Gentle and kind to those that know him, he was somewhat of an enforcer when he played.
He set hard picks. When the rebound came down and hands were slapping, Bob's elbows were flying. Some will tell you he may have banged his head on lockers prior to games and he'll readily admit to getting tossed a few times. Come game time, you wanted Bob Wiesenhahn on your side.
"There's game players and there's practice players," Wiesenhahn said. "When you get up for a game, your jumping's higher and you're quicker and ready to go. You grab a rebound and a guy's smacking the heck out of you, you try to clean'em off so you can get it out."
After his Bearcat days, he rejoined Oscar Robertson for a year as a member of the 1961-62 Cincinnati Royals of the NBA. Another Bearcat Hall of Famer, Jack Twyman was also on that team which was coached by Charley Wolf, the patriarch of the local Wolf family athletic dynasty.
When UC repeated in 1962, again over Ohio State, Wiesenhahn was married with a son.
A reserve with the Royals, he tried a year in the American Basketball League following that with the Pittsburgh Rens. The league went bankrupt and that was that. Based on his rugged size and style George Halas of the NFL Chicago Bears offered a tryout, but then with two kids, Wiesenhahn went into the real world.
"There were only nine NBA teams back then," Wiesenhahn said. "The ABL fell through around Christmas (1962). In Pittsburgh, we never did get our money. A lawyer tried, but it didn't work out."
UC's championship teams were charter Hall of Fame members. They have been recognized over the years, but a most recent celebration of Bearcat basketball didn't sit well with Wiesenhahn and some teammates.
"It was all for Huggins," he said. "(Tom) Thacker said to me, 'What did they ever win?' They went to the Final Four one time, we were in the Final Four all the time. I was the MVP on the team and every year I go down there they have it mixed up."
He used to watch a lot of NBA but has shifted back to the college game.
"A lot of people get disgusted with the NBA because it's all threes," Wiesenhahn said. "We worked inside mainly and set picks with guys coming off of them. Big guys had more opportunities to score. I'm off the NBA anymore."
While still a fan, he's also bothered by the cheating that goes on in college basketball and how players leave for the pros quickly. He's also amazed at the Cost of Attendance money given to players in addition to their scholarships. At UC, it's in the $5,000 to $7,000 range.
"We got $15 a month for laundry," Wiesenhahn said. "They get more money now. For 10 months, we got $15 for laundry. That's not much. We went to Texas and played down there and I wanted to buy a cowboy hat. I couldn't afford it because I didn't have any money."
His sons, Dave and Jeff both played at Rollins College in Florida, with Jeff eventually transferring to Bellarmine. Daughter Diane played volleyball at the University of Cincinnati and daughter Linda played at St. Joseph's (Indiana).
Bob Wiesenhahn still avidly follows Cincinnati sports, particularly at the high school level. Come basketball season, he'll make it a point to view as many games as possible, which could be in doubt now with COVID-19 restrictions. He has a grandson at Xavier who's hoping to view some games with his grandfather.
He chuckles at how the game has evolved, but still speaks with knowledge of what he's seen.
"When we played you couldn't carry the ball," Wiesenhahn said. "Walking is predominant now. The pros take steps where they walk in-bounds with the ball and don't even know they're doing it. It's an easier game if you're carrying the ball."
Regardless, he's savvy enough online to find the information he wants. His technology searching skills come in handy when the Racquet Club "regulars" interrupt his reps on a machine for a comment on a game or event. A 30-minute workout typically runs into an hour when that happens, but he's always eager and gracious to respond.
Now you know.