The fearsome forward powered the Bruins to two national championships in the interregnum between Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. In the 1970 title game against Jacksonville, Wicks begged coach John Wooden to let him play behind the 7-foot-2 Artis Gilmore and, at 6-8, he blocked five Gilmore shots. In UCLA’s closest NCAA tournament call in its run to seven consecutive titles, Wicks made four free throws in the final 25 seconds to cap a furious rally against Long Beach State in the 1971 West Regional final.
The second-greatest player in college history, trailing only Abdul-Jabbar, and the case can be made that Walton was the better all-around player. The Bruins went undefeated in both his sophomore and junior seasons, and his performance against Memphis State in the 1973 NCAA title game — he made 21 of 22 shots and scored 44 points — stands as the finest by any collegian ever. Only in its final go-round did the Walton Gang falter, losing four strange games and seeing its championship streak end against North Carolina State.
The best second-best player in college basketball annals. Known then as Keith Wilkes (and nicknamed, appropriately, “Silk”), the elegant forward was the understated counterweight to the fiery Walton. Here’s a vintage Wilkes line from UCLA’s narrow victory over Florida State in the 1972 NCAA final — 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting, 10 rebounds. Wooden steadfastly refused to identify any single Bruin as the best he ever coached, but he made a point to describe Wilkes as his “ideal” player.