Today’s look back at Trojans who died in 2021 remembers Paul Westphal.
Westphal was on the 1971 USC men’s basketball team that had a 24-2 record. He was a first-team All-American the following season.
Westphal was so good, he could have gone anywhere after playing at Aviation High School in Redondo Beach and it came down to perennial champion UCLA and USC.
“I wanted to play on a national championship team,” Westphal said in 1969. “I liked the USC school best, and I felt I had a chance for a national championship at either. But if I were on a championship team at UCLA, well, they’ve had the teams with Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich and now Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). At USC it would be the first national championship and would have more distinction.”
- Here is what John Wooden said about Westphal:
“In my career as a teacher and coach at UCLA, the most valuable recruit we ever lost was Paul Westphal.
“He’s the one who got away. He attended all my basketball camps, and I was sure he was going to come to UCLA. He changed his mind at the very last moment and went to USC.
“Paul has said that because we were doing very well at that time, he thought it would be better to help somebody else get in that spot and knock us off rather than just coming to UCLA and help us continue
“I’ve seen a lot of basketball players, and Paul Westphal is the only one who from what I saw was truly ambidextrous. I’ve had a lot of them who were pretty good with the off-hand. But you could tell whether they were left-handed or right-handed. With Paul, I believe that he could have shot with either hand and it would have looked exactly the same.”
He averaged 16.9 points a game in his career with a high of 20.3 in 1971-72. Westphal scored 12,397 points during his 12-year NBA career and averaged 15.6 points and 4.4 assists per game in his career.