Along with naming Northwestern the 1931 National Champions, the Helms Foundation also named 6 foot 3 inch Wildcat center Joseph Reiff the Most Outstanding Player for the 1931 season. On a Wildcat team which featured a number of talented players, Reiff was the star. He picked up not only the MOP award from the Helms Foundation, but also was named a first team All-American. Reiff’s All-American award during that 1931 campaign was the first ever earned by a Wildcat. While earning that All-American award, Reiff led the Big Ten in scoring. Amazingly he was just a sophomore at the time.
In 1932 Reiff and the Wildcats finished second in the Big Ten to Helms Foundation National Champ Purdue. Reiff finished second in the league in scoring and was named a third-team All-American. That might have been something of a disappointment, as it was certainly a step back from that national title caliber team from the year before, but Reiff and Wildcats rebounded the next season to capture their second Big Ten Title. Again, Reiff led the Wildcats and the Big Ten in scoring. In fact, he set what was at the time a Big Ten record by scoring 168 points (14.0 PPG) in Big Ten play. Obviously, the offense flow of basketball was a little different in the early 1930s, but I say again that doesn’t change the significance of what was accomplishment. Reiff’s teammate Elmer Johnson finished second in the league in scoring. For his efforts, Reiff earned his second first team All-American honor in 1933 making him the first and second Wildcat All-American. Overall the Wildcats were 15-4 in that season.
That Big Ten Title Reiff led the ‘Cats to in 1933 is also the last time Northwestern won a Big Ten Title in Basketball. In fact, Northwestern has only had 17 winning seasons since 1933, which as others have said, is a strong reason to positively promote the successes the program has had during its history. Reiff himself has earned recognition from the Helms Foundation Basketball Hall of Fame to which he was elected to in 1972. Northwestern also recognized Reiff by naming him a charter member of its athletic Hall of Fame in 1984. That hall of fame induction wasn’t Reiff’s only legacy at NU. His grandson Joe Reiff played football at Northwestern and helped lead the Wildcat defense which carried the Wildcats to the Rose Bowl in 1995 and the Citrus Bowl in 1996.