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Georgia Southern remember's Fran Florian's record night
Georgia Southern's Fran Florian, is carried off the floor by teammates following his school record 60-point performance against Jacksonville in a Jan. 22, 1964 game in Statesboro. - photo by Georgia Southern AMR

    He came out of the game with 1:12 to go because legendary head coach J.B. Scearce thought he already had scored 60 points.

The game was in Hanner Gym, which is now referred to as Old Hanner or Back Hanner. Bleachers lined both sides of the lower level, and bleachers sat all around the balcony, so fans were right on top of the court. The gym sat 2,700, but they routinely crammed 2,800 in the building. Seats were hard to come by.  

When the public address announcer made the announcement that Fran Florian had 58 points in the game against Jacksonville University, the raucous crowd began the chant.

“We want 60!” “We want 60!” The sound rained down to the bench, which was located in the end zone, and Scearce promptly sent Florian back to the scorer’s table to check in.

“I don’t remember the name of the play, but it was one where we would set a screen, and he came across the head of the key from the right-hand side to the left-hand side,” said teammate E.G. Meybohm, who was inducted to the GS Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991 along with Florian. “He came across, got the basketball and it hit nothing but nylon.”

The crowd erupted, Florian received a standing ovation when he checked back out with 46 seconds remaining and was carried off the floor by his teammates after the final buzzer sounded.

“The guys were pretty close by, and they just picked me up and took me toward the dressing room,” Florian recalls. “There were a lot of smiles and ‘way to go’ and that type of thing.”

He finished the game 29 of 47 from the field and added two free throws, setting school records for points in a game, surpassing Chester Webb’s 47 against Piedmont in 1956, points in a half, field goals made and field goals attempted. Sophomore guard Don Adler also topped the assist record with 27, and all those records set on that famous night of Jan. 22, 1964, still stand today. It was an era of basketball before the shot clock or the 3-point line.

“Shooters believe that every shot they take is a shot they can make, even though it doesn’t always work out that way,” said Florian. “We had a high-scoring game going on, and this was just a night that anybody playing any sport hopes to have during their playing time. All the shots I got were shots I could make, and you almost wish you could play a doubleheader like baseball so you can carry that over and keep it going.”

“It was a remarkable night of shooting,” added Meybohm. “As I recall, he made two free throws and one layup. The other 28 were jump shots, and I think 20 or more would have been 3-pointers today. It was just incredible.”

Florian hailed from Orient, Illinois, where he was a four-sport letterman and had several offers from Big Ten schools to play basketball. He decided to stay close to home and attended Southern Illinois his freshman year but had left school and was working in Chicago.

John Burton was also a native of Orient and finishing up his first season at Georgia Southern when Scearce asked him if he knew anybody who could play. Burton mentioned Florian, who grew up just a block away, and Scearce went to his folks’ house and talked to his mother. The next day, Florian received a call from his mother and before you know it, he was packing his bags, headed south.

“At that point, I was like a lot of young people who don’t know what they want to do,” Florian remembers. “I was happy to be working, but I didn’t like the cold so when I had a chance to go to school and play ball, I took it.” 

Florian foreshadowed his school record night just four days earlier, when he scored 42 points, just five shy of Webb’s record, in the previous game, a 107-67 win over Mercer. Scearce had not realized he was so close to the record against Mercer or he would have tried to get the ball to him more, he told the Bulloch Herald (now Statesboro Herald) at the time.

Georgia Southern will honor Florian and his school record 60-point game at the Eagles' contest against UTA on Saturday, in Hanner Fieldhouse. Tipoff against the Mavericks is set for 5 p.m., and the game will air live on ESPN3 and WSAV-CW. The ceremony will take place as part of the 2018 Basketball Alumni Reunion, and all former basketball alumni student-athletes, coaches, trainers, equipment managers and their families are invited to the game.

    Florian finished his career with 1,341 points, which ranked fifth in school history at the time, and 398 rebounds in 62 games. His name is often brought up when debating the best pure shooters in Georgia Southern history.