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Walt Wesley

Walt Wesley
Personal information
Born (1945-01-25) January 25, 1945 (age 71)
Fort Myers, Florida
Nationality American
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Career information
High school Dunbar (Fort Myers, Florida)
College Kansas (1963–1966)
NBA draft 1966 / Round: 1 / Pick: 6th overall
Selected by the Cincinnati Royals
Pro career 1966–1975
Position Center
Number 12, 20, 44, 31, 28, 21
Career history
19661969 Cincinnati Royals
1969–1970 Chicago Bulls
19701972 Cleveland Cavaliers
1972–1973 Phoenix Suns
1973–1974 Capital Bullets
1974 Philadelphia 76ers
1974–1975 Milwaukee Bucks
1975 Los Angeles Lakers
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points 5,002 (8.5 ppg)
Rebounds 3,243 (5.5 rpg)
Assists 385 (0.7 apg)
Stats at

Walter Wesley (born January 25, 1945) is an American former professional basketball player.

Early life

Wesley grew up in Fort Myers, Florida, the son of Leroy and Josie Wesley.[1] He attended Dunbar High School in Fort Myers.

College career

The top university basketball programs weren't yet recruiting African-American players, but Wesley was recruited by programs in the Midwest. Welsey was quoted, "It’s not that we weren’t capable, or good enough academically. We just weren’t recruited. There was a segregated system, and it was tough. Fortunately, I was recruited by several schools out of the midwest and that’s where I chose to go."[2]

The 6'11" center chose to attend the University of Kansas and play for its storied program.

In his first varsity season as a sophomore in 1963-64, Wesley averaged 10.5 points per game (ppg) and 5.9 rebounds per game (rpg). In his junior year, he became a dominant center, with a career-best 23.5 ppg and 8.8 rpg for the 17-8 Jayhawks.[3]

In his senior season of 1965-66, Wesley averaged 20.7 ppg and a career-best 9.3 rpg as the Jayhawks won the Big 8 championship and were 23-8 overall. In the postseason, Wesley unwittingly found himself in a position that one day inspired the movie Glory Road.[4] In the 1966 Midwest Regional Finals in Lubbock, Texas, the #4-ranked Jayhawks were in a tight game with #2-ranked Texas Western, now the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Wesley set a pick and Jo Jo White made a 30-foot shot at the buzzer which seemingly sent the Jayhawks to the Final Four. But then a whistle blew, White was ruled as having stepped out of bounds, Texas Western won in double-overtime[5] and would go on to win the title.[6]

NBA career

Wesley was chosen in the first round (sixth overall) of the 1966 NBA Draft by the Cincinnati Royals.

In his rookie season as a backup center, Wesley played 14 minutes per game, averaging 4.9 ppg and 5.1 rpg.[7] His high-point game was 19 points on March 11, 1967 against the Chicago Bulls.[8] During the 1967-68 and 1968-69 seasons, his playing time and stat line remained about the same, although by his third season his scoring had risen to 7.6 ppg, a season in which he played in all 82 games.[9] On December 15, 1967, he scored a then career-best 22 points on December 15, 1967 against the Detroit Pistons.[10]

Prior to his fourth season, 1969–70, he was traded to the Chicago Bulls. His playing time rose to 19.5 minutes per game, and career bests of 9.5 ppg and 6.3 rpg.[11]

After that season, Wesley was selected in the 1970 expansion draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 1970-71 season, his fifth. Becoming the Cavaliers starting center, Wesley had by far his most productive season. Playing in all 82 games, he averaged career-highs of 17.7 ppg and 8.7 rpg, both of which led the Cavaliers.[12] On December 6, 1970 he exploded for a career-high 36 points against the New York Knicks. But that was just a harbinger for what was to come. On February 19, 1971, Wesley scored 50 points against his first team, the Cincinnati Royals.[13] In the 125-109 Cavaliers win, Wesley poured in 20 field goals and was 10-for-14 from the free throw line.[14]

In 1971-72, Wesley again played all 82 games, with 12.4 ppg and tying his career-best of 8.7 rpg. In 1972-73, after 12 games with the Cavs, he was traded to the Phoenix Suns. For the season overall, he played in 57 games but, now in a backup role, he averaged only 3.2 ppg and 2.6 rpg. After the season, he was traded to the Capital Bullets.[15]

For the next three seasons, he continued as a backup, playing just a few minutes per game, for the Bullets, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and one game during 1975-76, his 10th and final NBA season, for the Los Angeles Lakers.[16]

He averaged 8.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg over the course of his career.[17]

Personal life

After retiring from the NBA, Wesley served as an assistant coach for one season at the University of Kansas, as well as at Western Michigan University and at Army.[18]

In 1995, Wesley came home to Fort Myers for good. He operated several programs for the Fort Myers Parks & Recreation Department,[19] then served as director of the Fort Myers Police Athletic League. Wesley and his volunteers coordinate boxing, basketball, football and other activities for at-risk youth.[20]

On December 18, 2004, his number was retired by the University of Kansas and hangs on a banner in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. It is one of only five numbers retired by the Jayhawks.[21]

In September 2007, Wesley was inducted into the National Negro High School Basketball Hall of Fame in Daytona Beach, Florida. In January 2008, his jersey was the first ever retired by Dunbar High School.[22]