Before we’d heard of Vietnam or men had walked on the moon, people at that time would probably say Bob Skousen was clever with the ball. He lived and played during a time when shooting was an art form, and when you scored a zillion points, it really meant something because there was no 3-point line, nobody got a bonus for distance.
Bob Skousen, 77, the owner of BYU’s all-time single game scoring record of 47 points for half a century, died in Mesa, Arizona, on Feb. 12. Funeral services for Skousen will be Saturday in Mesa.
Skousen was a 6-foot-4 shooting guard whom friends describe as an outgoing, personable and confident person whose scoring prowess was something to behold.
Skousen’s 47-point scoring night came in the Smith Fieldhouse Dec. 1, 1961, against John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins, a team that would go on to make the NCAA Final Four. Thing is, it was Skousen’s second game back from a two-year LDS mission to Australia.
“He was just in a zone," said Bill Crow, in an interview with the Provo Daily Herald in 2009. "Bob was a great outside shooter but that night he had tip-ins, drives to the basket ... he knocked in what I recall would've been six or seven 3-pointers. And at that point, Bob still had his missionary legs, quite frankly. He was quite the leaper before he left on his mission."
This is a man whose legend at BYU has been overshadowed over the years by prolific scorers like Danny Ainge, Michael Smith, Jimmer Fredette and Tyler Haws. It took the implement of the 3-point field goal to give those who followed a chance to displace his remarkable performance.
That happened in February 2009 when Fredette scored 49 points against the University of Arizona on the road in Tucson. Fredette later broke that mark by scoring 52 against New Mexico his senior year in the Mountain West Conference tournament in Las Vegas.
“He was a tremendous shooter,” said Provo’s Bill Aaron, who saw Skousen play and was on the same LDS mission in Australia. “He was a tremendous missionary for his church. During that time, the average missionary was involved in one or two baptisms a year in Australia. Bob Skousen baptized 60 people into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
He was also very bold. Aaron remembers Skousen was courting and nearly married Sherry Hales, who was a college beauty queen at the time. But while in Rome, the two broke off marriage plans for the London LDS Temple. Later, Skousen saw BYU coed Toni Gale on campus and was so smitten he walked right up to her and said she was going to be his wife. “She told him to get lost,” said Aaron. “But later, they did date and he did end up marrying her.”
Skousen was a highway contractor, rancher, pilot, avid golfer, art collector and dealer and he also raised llamas. He enjoyed adventures and his obituary even described him as a treasure hunter.
He was also part of a unique traveling basketball team comprised of Mormon missionaries that toured Australia. A documentary called “Mormon Yankees” was made of this basketball endeavor more than half a century ago. It was created by the LDS faith to open doors Down Under from 1937 to 1961. Those teams ended up playing against basketball teams in Australia who had designs on playing in the 1956 Olympics.
Former members of the “Mormon Yankees” include Elder Loren C. Dunn and Skousen, who played at BYU; former University of Utah star DeLyle Condie and former Presiding Bishop of the LDS faith, H. David Burton.
Aaron remembers Skousen scored more than 52 points in one of those games in Australia.
“He was an easygoing guy. The fact he scored that 47 and set the school record against UCLA, a great program with a legendary coach, is proof of how good of a shooter Bob was back in the day,” said Aaron.
Back in December 1961, it was a custom to play teams twice, back-to-back. Skousen was injured for his first game back from Australia against UCLA. In the rubber match is when he rose up and delivered the 47, a mark that stood the test of time.
If only you’d been given credit for buckets made from the nonexistent 3-point line that night.
Rest in peace, Bob Skousen, and thanks for the memory.