Nine people and two teams will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts on Sept. 6.
And while many of the inductees are being enshrined for their accomplishments at the professional level, many of them had stellar college careers before turning pro. Bobby Jones led North Carolina to a Final Four, Sidney Moncrief once led the country in field goal percentage, and Chuck Cooper was the first African American to play in a college basketball game south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Let’s take a look back at what these players meant to college basketball.
Teresa Weatherspoon (women’s committee selection)
Before she became a five-time all-star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the WNBA, Weatherspoon was a star for the Lady Techsters at Louisiana Tech. Weatherspoon, at 5-foot-8, played at Louisiana Tech from 1984 through 1988 and was twice an All-American and won the Wade Trophy — given to the top women’s college basketball player in the country — as a senior. In the same season she captured the Wade, Weatherspoon helped lead the Lady Techsters to a national championship, beating Auburn 56-54 in the title game. Weatherspoon also played on the Olympic team that summer.
In all, Weatherspoon’s Lady Techsters’ teams went 118-14 during her time there and twice appeared in the national championship game. Her No. 11 jersey is retired there and she still holds program records for career assists (958) and steals (411). She also coached at Louisiana Tech from 2009 through 2014, winning two WAC titles and appearing in two NCAA tournaments.
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Al Attles (contributor)
Prior to playing, coaching and being an executive and ambassador for the Warriors, Attles played his college ball at North Carolina A&T, an HBCU in Greensboro, N.C. The 6-foot-1 Attles played for the Aggies from 1956 to 1960, leading his team to a pair of CIAA titles. In 82 games, Attles scored 1,039 points at N.C. A&T, including the first points ever scored in the Greensboro Coliseum. Attles earned degrees in physical education and history from N.C. A&T, and his No. 22 jersey was retired in 2015.
Carl Braun (veteran’s committee)
Braun led the New York Knicks in scoring for seven straight seasons, was a five-time NBA all-star and won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 1962. But before all that, he was shooting hoops at Colgate from 1945 through 1947. Braun led the Raiders in scoring in his first season, helping them reach a 12-6 record. Braun died in 2010 at 82.
Chuck Cooper (early African American pioneers committee)
Cooper was a trailblazer and a barrier breaker. He was the first African American to play in a college basketball game south of the Mason-Dixon Line while he was playing a Duquesne University, and was also the first African American drafted by an NBA team, when the Boston Celtics selected him in 1950. Cooper began his college playing days at Division II West Virginia State before serving in the Navy. When he came back from his service, he joined Duquesne where he led the team to a 78-19 record during his time there and became an All-American. In 1946, the University of Tennessee came to Pittsburgh to play Duquesne, but demanded that Cooper not be allowed to play in the contest. The Duquesne players took a vote and decided not to play the game without Cooper, sending Tennessee home empty-handed. Cooper died in 1984 at 57.
He broke the NBA’s color barrier 69 years ago. Now, the former Boston Celtic is finally getting his due.
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) September 3, 2019
Before a Nike poster dubbed him “The Secretary of Defense,” Jones was a star in Chapel Hill, leading the Tar Heels on the court. He helped the Tar Heels get to the Final Four as a sophomore in 1972, then as a senior in 1974 he was an All-American and helped Dean Smith’s side complete a historic comeback against rival Duke. With 17 seconds left, the Tar Heels scored eight points to send the game to overtime and Jones finished with 24 points in Carolina’s eventual 96-92 victory. He also stole an inbounds pass earlier in the season and hit a lay-up at the buzzer for another win over Duke. Also in 1972, he shot an ACC record 66.8 percent from the floor for the season. In the NBA, with the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers, he was named to five All-Star teams and 11 All-Defensive teams. He won a championship with the 76ers in 1983 and his No. 24 jersey was retired by the team.
Prior to his lengthy career as an NBA player and coach — one that spanned from 1972 through 2016 — Westphal was an outstanding player at Southern California, averaging 16.4 points per-game over his collegiate career, the ninth best in school history. At USC, Westphal was a two-time All-Pac-8 selection and an All-American in 1972. In 1971, he helped the Trojans go 24-2, and the team’s only losses were to UCLA, by four and 11 points respectively. Westphal’s No. 25 jersey was retired by USC in 2007.
Bill Fitch (coach)
Fitch worked his way up the coaching ranks from Division III all the way to the pros. Long before he won an NBA title as the head coach of the Boston Celtics in 1981, Fitch was coaching college teams all over. He got his start as an assistant at Creighton, then was the head coach of Division III Coe College, and then coached North Dakota University, which was then a Division II school. Fitch took North Dakota to back-to-back Division II Final Fours in 1965 and 1966, and then coached Bowling Green to a regular season MAC title and an NCAA tournament appearance. Fitch then spent two seasons coaching the Minnesota Gophers before landing his first NBA job with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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Before winning a NBA championship with the Seattle Supersonics, Sikma starred at then-NAIA school, Illinois Wesleyan University — which is now an NCAA Division III institution. Over his career there, Sikma averaged 21.2 points and 13.1 rebounds per-game, was a three-time NAIA All-American and was the the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin’s Most Outstanding Player for three straight seasons. Sikma also led the team to three conference championships and remains its all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
From @IWUBasketball → Sonics → Bucks
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) September 5, 2019
Prior to starring with the Bucks and Hawks, Moncrief was a stellar player at the University of Arkansas, leading the Razorbacks to three straight conference titles, three straight NCAA tournament appearances, an Elite Eight in 1979 and a Final Four in 1978. In 1979, Moncrief was an All-American and the Southwest Conference Player of the Year. In 1976, as a freshman, he led the NCAA in shooting percentage, knocking down 66.5 percent of his attempts from the floor.
— SI Vault (@si_vault) February 13, 2017
Tennessee A&I men’s teams of 1957-59
Led by head coach John McLendon, Tennessee A&I (now known as Tennessee State) were the first team to win back-to-back-to-back championships in any college division. The team was led on the court by John Barnhill and Dick Barnett, and broke racial barriers as they traveled all over for games, challenging segregation.
Inductees for the class of 2019 also include Serbian star center Vlade Divac and a collection of women’s teams from Wayland Baptist University, a NAIA school.