We've finally hit the top 5 on the Bearcats Blog countdown. This is one of the hardest players to write about because he played in the dark ages. It's LaZelle Durden. It's easy to find some stories about Durden, but it's not very easy to find a whole lot about things. I've talked about this a bit before in regards to some other players. There really needs to be a person out there who puts box scores and stats from the mid 90s in some sort of compilation. Someone went through every NBA box score, someone can surely do this. Gotta make it easy on the guys who want to write about LaZelle Durden. Come on.
Yeah, there aren't even good pictures of Durden.
LaZelle Durden was a pretty one dimensional player. That is used as a knock on a lot of people. One dimensional leads one to think that the player was great at one thing and terrible at everything else. In a one on one sport that could be problematic. In a team sport, that's not such a big deal. Especially when your one dimension is being a guy who can score a lot of points because he is a very good 3 point shooter. LaZelle Durden scored a lot of points because he was a very good 3 point shooter. And because he shot the ball a lot. You normally don't score a lot of points when you don't shoot a lot. You have to shoot to score and Durden loved to shoot. It's one of the things that drew 12 year old Scott to Durden's game. When I shot in the backyard, I was LaZelle Durden. That's just about as high a compliment a 12 year old can pay to a player.
Duden came to UC a tremendous scorer in high school. He averaged 38 points a game and was Mr Basketball for Ohio. Durden's first year at Cincinnati was the 1992-93 season. He was one of the first guards off the bench. It was Tarrance Gibson, AD Jackson and Durden who played off Nick Van Exel. Oh my god AD Jackson, I haven't thought about him or heard his name in ages. Even when I wrote about Herb Jones, his name is listed as Allen Jackson and I never put 2 and 2 together. Good lord, AD Jackson.
LaZelle Durden had a role on that team. It was as a 3 point maker off the bench. And he did that job to the fullest. He made 50 field goals his freshman season, 31 were threes. 92 of his 131 shots were 3s. 69% of his field goal attempts were 3s. Durden was a sharpshooter whenever he got to the line. He made 33-38 his freshman year. He scored 164 points. Durden had 31 rebounds, 10 steals and 9 assists. He averaged 5.3 points, 1 rebound, and the rest are small numbers because 10 steals and 9 assists over 31 games is not a lot.
Durden saw time during the NCAA tournament. UC opened with Coppin State. In the win, Lazelle was 2-4 for 6 points. So we know those buckets were 3s. Durden was 4-8 for 12 points against New Mexico St in a 92-55 beatdown. We can assume that all of those shots were 3s as well. UC was up 50-18 at the half of that game. The Bearcats met Virginia in the next round. Durden was 2-5 from the field, but both of his shots were 2s because he scored 4 points. With UC a game away from the Final Four, Durden didn't score against North Carolina.
LaZelle Durden moved into the starting lineup for the 93-94 season. He played just 25 games for reasons that I don't know and I can't find. So he was abducted by aliens for 7 games. Dontonio Wingfield missed 3 games that year. Those were the only guys on the team who could score. Damon Flint kind of could, kind of. It's a wonder they lost in the first round. Spoiler alert. Durden took a much bigger stake in the team's scoring. It was a good thing because he shot the effing lights out. 102 of 144 made field goals were 3s. 244 of his 330 shots were 3s. That's right, Durden was 102-244 from 3, 42%. He was just 42-86 from 2. Durden nearly made that many free throws. He was 56-72 at the line, 78%. He scored 446 points, with 72 rebounds, 28 assists and 20 steals. He averaged 17.8 points a game, 2.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.8 steals. Durden led the team in scoring. The 102 threes were the most ever for a single season.
LaZelle had the best scoring game for a Bearcat since 1971 when he went off for 39 points against Austin Peay. He set the UC record for 3s in a game by hitting 8. Then he broke it by hitting 9 against Memphis. He had 6 games that season, SIX, where he hit 8 or more 3s. He also set the record for most 3s attempted with 15 (three times) and 17, which he did twice. Durden helped UC win their 3rd straight Great Midwest Tournament. He wasn't named to any of their teams for some reason. In the NCAA tournament against Wisconsin, Durden was 3-7 from the field and 6-7 at the foul line for 15 points. He was the second leading scorer that game behind Wingfield.
The final season for LaZelle Durden saw him front and center. He had one of the greatest scoring seasons in UC history. Certainly one of the best for a guard. Durden played in all 34 games. He was primarily a 3 point shooter. 127 of 204 field goals were 3s, as were 339 of 485 attempts. Durden was 204-485, 42% from the field. He was 127-339, 37.5% from 3. He also hit 74-92, 80.4% from the foul line. He scored 609 points. Durden had 93 rebounds, 61 assists, and 23 steals. He averaged 17.9 points, 2.7 rebounds. 1.8 assists and 0.7 steals. The 127 three pointers broke the mark Durden set the previous season. To this day, LaZelle Durden is the only Bearcat to make 100 3s in a season. And he did it twice.
LaZelle earned first team All-Great Midwest honors for his great season. A couple of things stand out from the 94-95 year. First, there is the moment that makes LaZelle Durden a Bearcat legend. With UC down 2 at Wyoming, Durden went to the line for 3 free throws. UC didn't lead during any point of the game. Durden hit the first, hit the second and then did this:
He drilled the 3rd for the win. He scored 45 of the 81 Cincinnati points that night. It was the most points for a Bearcat since 1960. Durden attempted a UC record 20 three pointers that night. His 32 attempts were tied for the 5th most in UC history. Cincinnati was down by 1 in the Great Midwest title game. Durden responded with this:
It was the final Great Midwest Tournament. There were 4 of them. Cincinnati won 4 of them. Durden also shined during the NCAA tournament. Against Temple, Durden hit 6 of 11 from 3, made both of his 2s and both of his free throws, for a 24 point game in the win. Durden went 8-16, 3-3 at the line, for 25 points in the second round game against UConn, but UC lost.
LaZelle Durden scored 1,219 points in his 3 seasons as a Bearcat. He made 260 three pointers. That was the record when he left. It has since been passed by Darnell Burton, Field Williams and Deonta Vaughn. Durden has the 4th most 3 point attempts as well. His 38.5 percentage is 3rd all time.
Why He Made the List
LaZelle Durden was a great scorer. He was a fun player to watch. He bombed 3s whenever he could. He made a lot of them. He played a small part on a great team. He played a large part on a team that was involved in some memorable games. Durden was one of the rare players who you didn't know what he was capable of when he stepped on the floor. When he was hitting, there was a chance he could get 50. The man was going to shoot. More often than not, the man was going to score.
What He's Doing Now
I think that Durden might have been arrested a lot the past couple of years. In the image search I did, there were mug shots. I can't find any stories about him being arrested. But the pictures show a match. Let's do a comparison.
Yeah, that is the same guy. Well, this is off to an awfully sad start. Apparently was arrested for identity fraud, not wearing a seat belt, not having a license and falsification. He's been arrested every year since 2009. He hasn't been arrested this year. There are older mug shots that look a lot more like the picture from college. If this isn't the same LaZelle Durden and there is a man with his name who looks like him and is from the same city he is from, that would be strange and I would apologize.
I was really hoping Lazelle Durden would not be a bad guy because I was a big fan of his and now I'm a little bit less of a fan of his. I'm writing this part first, even though you are reading it last, and it made writing the glory days of Durden's life a little bittersweet. So here is a lesson to all of you players out there, don't get arrested after you are done playing because some stupid guy might do a write up of former players he loved and you will taint the memories. I would much rather have written "Durden played in the CBA and Europe for a few seasons. Now he is doing god knows what, but he's not being arrested for not paying child support and having his mug shots put on the internet, so that's good!" I guess I could have written that in an ironic way. It would have been better than this sad ending. Well, it's about time you learned that not every story has a happy ending. Some stories are a little depressing. This is one of them.