Indiana high school basketball legend Clyde Lovellette dies at 86

(AP Photo/Matty Zimmerman)

NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. (WOWO): One of Indiana’s biggest basketball stars who shunned playing college ball in the state has died.

Clyde Lovellette died at the age of 86. Lovellette’s family says he died of stomach cancer at his current home in North Manchester.

Born in Petersburg and raised in Terre Haute, Lovellette grew from a 6-4 freshman to 6-8 before he graduated from Garfield High School. He was all-state twice and led Garfield to an undefeated regular season in 1946-47 before they lost to Shelbyville in the state championship game.

Though it appeared Lovellette would attend IU, coach Phog Allen was able to convince him to go to Kansas, where he became a national star. The two-time All-America center was a teammate of future North Carolina head coach Dean Smith, and he led the Jayhawks to a national championship in 1952. Lovellette had 33 points and 17 rebounds in the title game win over St. John’s and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. He went on to win an Olympic gold medal with the U.S. national team in Helsinki that year before beginning an NBA career with the Minneapolis Lakers.

The Lakers were NBA champions in Lovellette’s rookie year, making him the first player to win an NCAA championship, an NBA title and an Olympic gold medal. He would spend four seasons in Minneapolis, followed by a season in Cincinnati, four with the St. Louis Hawks and his last two with the Boston Celtics – both of the Celtics teams won NBA titles.

Lovellette averaged 17 points and more than 11 rebounds per game for his NBA career. He was elected to the Naismath Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988, and his jersey was retired by Kansas in 1992. Though he left school more than six decades ago, he is still fourth on Kansas’s all-time scoring list.

Returning to Indiana after retirement, Lovellette briefly got into politics, winning election as sheriff of Vigo County. He got into trouble with city officials in Terre Haute when Lovellette had his deputies raid the city’s brothels, which were quietly enabled by Terre Haute’s mayor and other elected officials. The fallout helped lead to Lovellette’s defeat when he ran for re-election.

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