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Sports Then and Now

Monte Towe: A Little Giant

Posted on March 05, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Monte Towe

The March Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month helped lead the North Carolina State Wolfpack to an NCAA Championship despite always being the smallest man on the court.

The 5-foot-7 Monte Towe never let his size (or lack thereof) minimize his impact on the court as he was the floor general for a Wolfpack team that went 79-7 during his three seasons as the starting point guard.

As a sophomore during the 1972-73 campaign, Towe teamed with high-flying David Thompson and 7-foot-4 Tom Burleson to lead the Wolfpack to a perfect 27-0 record. However, the squad was unable to compete for the NCAA Championship due to NCAA violations.

The following season N.C. State went 30-1 and was a perfect 12-0 in the ACC.

At a time when only the conference champion earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Wolfpack and the University of Maryland played one of the most memorable games in NCAA history with N.C. State surviving in overtime 103-100 to claim the conference title and spot in the NCAA Tournament.

In the tournament semifinals, the Wolfpack faced the only team that had defeated them over the past two seasons in seven-time defending champion UCLA. The Bruins had easily dispatched the Wolfpack 84-66 as part of a winning streak that would reach 88 straight games.

The 1974 N.C. State lineup included 7-foot-4 Tom Burleson and 5-foot-7 Monte Towe.

However, since their streak-ending loss to Notre Dame, the Bruins had lost two additional games and despite the presence of All-American Bill Walton seemed slightly vulnerable in the rematch with N.C. State.

For much of the national semifinal it looked like UCLA was going to advance to another title game. They led by as many as 11 points in the second half before Towe, Thompson and the Wolfpack stormed back to send the game to overtime.

UCLA led by seven points early in the second overtime, but the Wolfpack rallied and won the contest 80-77.

Two nights later, Thompson scored 21 points and Towe added 16 to lead N.C. State to a 76-64 victory over Marquette. Towe earned All-ACC and All-NCAA Tournament honors in 1974.

Though N.C. State was unable to reach similar heights the following season with a 22-6 record, Towe still cemented his place in N.C. State history as one of the best point guards in school history and as a senior received the Naismith Award given to the best player in the country under six feet.

Despite his small stature, Towe was drafted both by the NBA (57th overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks) and ABA (29th pick by the Denver Nuggets).

In two seasons with the Nuggets, Towe averaged 2.8 points and 1.9 assists per contest.

Following his playing career, Towe stayed in basketball as a coach. He served on the staff of his head coach Norm Sloan at both N.C. State and the University of Florida. He later served as an assistant coach at UNC-Asheville before becoming the head coach at the University of New Orleans in 2001.

Towe spent five seasons at New Orleans and recorded an overall record of 70-78. He returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach to another former championship point guard in Sidney Lowe.

In 2002, Towe’s number 25 was honored and hung in the rafters at N.C. State.

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