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Louisville legend, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Wes Unseld dead at age 74

Former University of Louisville standout Wes Unseld, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, passed away on Tuesday. He was 74.

Unseld’s No. 31 is one of just four retired jersey numbers in UofL history. In three seasons at UofL (1965-68), he scored 1,686 points (11th all-time at UofL) and grabbed 1,551 rebounds (second all-time at UofL).

Seneca High School graduate Wes Unseld scored 1,686 points and grabbed 1,551 rebounds in three years at Louisville.

A consensus All-American during his junior and senior years, Unseld is one of only five Cardinal players to pull down more than 1,000 rebounds in his career. A native of Louisville who graduated from Seneca High School, he began his senior season with a 45-point effort against Georgetown College, a UofL single-game scoring record that stands today.

“Wes is one of my all-time favorite players,” said UofL Vice-President/Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “Like dad (former UofL All-America Charlie Tyra), he was a local player who had great success at UofL. What was as impressive was his NBA career as both a player and coach.

“Wes was a UofL and NBA Hall of Famer that used his platform to create change in education for generations to come. He was truly one of the finest ever to wear a Cardinal uniform. All of us in Card Nation offer our thoughts and prayers with the Unseld family.”

Unseld was honored on the All-Missouri Valley Conference team each of his three years at UofL while leading the Cardinals to a combined 60-22 record. As a sophomore, he led the Cardinals to a final No. 2 ranking in both wire service polls while averaging 18.7 points and 19.0 rebounds.

During his final season at UofL in 1967-68, he averaged 23.0 points and 18.3 rebounds when the Cardinals posted a 21-7 record and were ninth in the final Associated Press poll.

Wes Unseld was a five-time NBA All-Star.

Unseld’s 20.6 career scoring average ranks as the best in Louisville history, and his 18.9 career rebounding average is also the highest for a Cardinal.

Following his career at UofL, Unseld was chosen as the second player overall in the 1968 NBA Draft by the Baltimore Bullets. He went on to play 13 years for the Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets (1968-81), where he became the second player in NBA history to be chose NBA Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season.

Unseld was a five-time NBA All-Start and was named the NBA Finals MVP when he led the Bullets to the 1978 NBA title.

He was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988 and was selected among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history in 1996 to honor the 50th anniversary of the league. He served as head coach of the Bullets from 1988-94 and worked in the organization’s front office for many years.

Unseld played at Seneca High from 1961 to 1964. His reputation as an outlet passer, rebounder and defensive player was unequaled, and Unseld’s totals of 72 and 88 rebounds in the 1963 and ’64 state tournaments remain KKSAA records.

Seneca won the state championship in 1963 and ’64. Unseld was named Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball in 1964.

From University of Louisville and staff reports

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