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For some, Pete Maravich's NCAA scoring mark cannot be eclipsed by Caitlin Clark or anyone else

Cory Crowe

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU's dome-roofed basketball stadium, the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, is named for a supremely crafty, skilled and mesmerizing player who has been known since 1970 for scoring more career points than any man or woman in NCAA history.

That could change within days.

Those who played with, followed or knew the late Maravich sound conflicted about the inevitable moment — likely this Sunday — when “Pistol Pete” is supplanted by Iowa women's basketball sensation Caitlin Clark atop the NCAA's all-time scoring list.

“What Caitlin’s done has been amazing. She’s fantastic player, great for the women’s game and basketball in general,” Maravich's eldest son, Jaeson told The Associated Press this week.

Clark's on-court panache — she is a whirlwind and has piled up as many triple-doubles as she has highlight-reel shots — and even her appearance remind Jaeson of his Hall-of-Fame father.

“A lanky build and dark eyes," he said. "And very fun to watch.”

He roots for her, but also will regard her career scoring total as “totally separate” from that of his father.

Clark is in her fourth and final season, and if she scores more than 17 points at home against Ohio State on Sunday, she will have surpassed Maravich's 3,667 career points in 130 games.

In 1966, when Maravich arrived at LSU, where his father, Press Maravich, coached, freshmen were not permitted to play for the varsity squad. Maravich's all-time scoring mark was set during just 83 games across three seasons from 1967 to 1970 — and during an era when there was no shot clock, and no 3-point line.

Maravich averaged 44.2 points per game. He scored more than 60 in a game four times, topping out at 69 against Alabama on Feb. 7, 1970.

Former LSU coach Dale Brown noted that recordings of Maravich's games make clear he routinely shot from beyond 20 feet. He and retired Baton Rouge-area sports writer Sam King concluded that Maravich would have averaged about 54 points per game had a 3-point line — adopted by the NCAA in 1986 — existed when he played. Maravich died in 1988 at the age of 40 after collapsing during a pickup basketball game.

“It bothers me a little bit,” Brown, who didn't coach Maravich but knew him well, said of Clark inevitably surpassing Maravich on the scoring list. “What he did will never be equaled.”

Brown, whose college players at LSU included Shaquille O’Neal and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (then known as Chris Jackson, described Maravich as "beyond any imagination.”

“I’ve seen some great players, but I've never seen a better offensive player than him on any level,” Brown said. "I coached 44 years and there’s never been anyone like him.”

Maravich often was described as a magician with the ball, whether he was shooting, dribbling or passing. Some of his college highlights can be found online. He'd switch hands while hanging in the air to get off contested shots — and make them. He'd appear to be dribbling at full speed and suddenly pull-up for a jumper on the wing.

“I don't know how he didn't break his ankles,” said former LSU teammate Ralph Jukkola. “You’d sit there scratching your head, thinking, 'How did he do that? I didn’t think you could do that with your body.'”

Like Clark, his passes were precise, whether he was flinging the ball the length of the court or whipping a no-look ball behind his back or between his legs.

“If he was looking straight at me, I didn't have to worry about getting the basketball," Jukkola said. “But he may turn, and the split second he turns, the ball may be there.”

And he recalled running the floor with Maravich thinking, “That poor defensive guy has no clue what’s going to happen.”

Jukkola, who was a year ahead of Maravich at LSU, remembered crowds packing arenas for JV games when Maravich was a freshman, and filing out when the varsity squad came out to warm up. After Maravich joined the varsity team, home and road games were almost always packed, and even road crowds would give Maravich standing ovations after some of his circus shots or passes.

At 6-foot-5, Maravich was relatively tall for a guard during his time. If a defender played close, he had the ball-handling skill and explosiveness to get around him, Jukkola said. If a defender backed off, Maravich could shoot over him.

During the 1996-97 basketball season, when the NBA celebrated its 50th anniversary by listing the 50 greatest players in its history, Maravich was included. His sons represented him at an event where players including Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird and Isaiah Thomas told them that their father inspired the creativity with which they played.

Johnson told them Pete “was the original Showtime.” Bird told them Maravich handled the ball like someone performing yo-yo tricks. Thomas called Maravich the greatest showman in the NBA and most entertaining player he'd ever seen.

Jaeson Maravich, now 44, was a talented scorer at the junior college level, topping out at 55 points in a game. His younger brother, Josh, was a reserve at LSU for three seasons.

Jaeson Maravich is generally eager to discuss his father’s legacy, and appreciates that Clark’s exploits have given him a chance to do that again, much like last year, when Detroit Mercy star Antoine Davis came within a 3-pointer of matching his father's scoring mark, albeit in 143 games over five seasons.

Jaeson Maravich first saw Clark play during last season's Final Four. He was visiting his mother, Jackie, who was watching Iowa upset top-seeded South Carolina and raving about Clark, who announced Thursday that she will skip her final season of eligibility and enter Aprils' WNBA draft.

“I thought I was going to watch for 2 minutes and it ended up being a lot longer,” he recalled.

“I get why the media is making a big deal” of Clark approaching an all-time NCAA points mark that's stood for more than half a century, Jaeson Maravich said. “Fifty-four years is a long time.”