Mikan returned to DePaul to discovered that the university had fired the basketball coach and hired Ray Meyer, an assistant coach from Notre Dame who had witnessed Mikan's abysmal tryout performance. Expecting Meyer's opinion to be similar to Keogan's, Mikan did not have good feelings about his chances to play for DePaul. However, on the first day of spring practice, Meyer dismissed the rest of the team to work daily for six weeks with Mikan alone. Meyer ran Mikan through a variety of drills to strengthen his coordination. He skipped rope, shadow boxed, ran, and spent hours practicing left- and right-handed hook shots and tap-ins. The long hours of practice paid off as Mikan's footwork and confidence continued to improve.
In 1944, 1945, and 1946 Mikan was named an All-American, and he led the nation in scoring in 1945 and 1946 with an average of 23.9 points per game (ppg) and 23.1 ppg, respectively. During the 1944-45 season, primarily because Mikan had become so effective at swatting the ball away from the opponent's basket that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) instituted a new rule that prohibited goaltending, namely, the ball could not be blocked on the way down toward the basket.
Despite the new goaltending rule, Mikan and his team excelled under Meyer's leadership. Reaching the 1945 NIT championship game, DePaul easily overcame Bowling Green State University, winning 71-54. During the tournament Mikan set 10 individual records, including a tremendous performance against Rhode Island at Madison Square Garden in which he scored 53 points. His total scoring for three games totaled a new record of 120 points, and he was selected for the tournament's Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. Mikan finished his college career with an average of 19.8 ppg, and over those four years, DePaul's record was 81-17.
After the 1946 collegiate season ended Mikan signed a professional contract with the National Basketball League's (NBL) Chicago Gears for $60,000 over five years plus a $25,000 signing bonus, making Mikan the highest paid pro basketball player to date. In the same year he married Patricia Lu Deveny; they had four sons and two daughters. Joining the team in mid-season, Mikan played in 25 games, averaging 16.5 ppg. The Gears won the 1947 NBL championship, and Mikan was named to the All-NBL Team. However, the following year the Gears franchise folded, and the team's players were distributed among the NBL teams.
- George Mikan - The First Basketball Dynasty
- George Mikan - The Path To Basketball
- Other Free Encyclopedias