I hope that you enjoyed part one of this stroll down memory lane as we have looked at some of Indiana Basketball’s great All-American players. (If you missed part one, there is a link below.) I wanted to have part two out to you yesterday, but my first day back after a long holiday weekend was a challenge just like yours. Ha! But we survived! So, let’s jump into part two!
Following the great Branch McCracken, we find a much less familiar Indiana star that earned All-American status. His name was Vern Huffman. Huffman was a First Team All-American selection in 1936.
Not only was he an All-American on the basketball court for the Hurrying Hoosiers, Huffman also won All-American honors in football for Indiana as well. In fact, he was so good on the gridiron that he won the 1936 Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the best football player in the Big Ten.
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One other interesting fact about Huffman, he also won an Indiana state high school basketball championship in 1932, playing for New Castle High School. Good old New Castle.
And just when we thought Vern couldn’t get any cooler, we find out that after playing a couple of seasons with the NFL’s Detroit Lions (1937-1938), he went on to manage a dairy and to work for the FBI. How cool was this guy?
ERNIE “JUNIE” ANDRES
We move on to 1939 when the next Hoosier player, Ernie “Junie” Andres, earned First Team All-American honors. A two-sport star, as many were in his era, Ernie played baseball as well. Andres spent 1939-1941 with the Red Sox organization before leaving to serve in the United States Navy during WWII from 1942-1945. After the war, Andres returned to the Red Sox from 1946 to 1947. Upon returning from the war, Andres was the Opening Day third baseman for the Boston Red Sox as a rookie in the 1946 season. He struggled with his hitting and was eventually sent back down to the minors.
Amazingly, Andres also played in the old National Basketball League for the Indianapolis Kautskys, and in the 1939-40 season was selected to the All-NBL Second team. Eventually, Andre returned to Indiana University where he was the baseball coach for the Hoosiers from 1948-1973.
The next Indiana All-American, in 1940, was Marvin Huffman who earned Second Team status for his stellar play that season as he led Indiana to the 1940 National Championship. The younger brother of aforementioned Vern Huffman, Marvin was only the second player to receive the NCAA Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player award.
The New Castle native, Huffman, had a brief professional basketball career in the NBL with the Akron Wingfoots.
1947 saw Hoosier Ralph Hamilton earn First Team All-American honors. Hamilton had an interesting career at Indiana because it bookended his three years serving in the Army during WWII. Hamilton played for the Hoosiers in 1941-42 and 1942-43 before leaving for his military service. He then returned in 1946-47 as a 25-year-old senior.
That season he served as the team captain and led the Hoosiers in scoring. He was named a consensus First Team All-American. Hamilton spent some time playing professionally in the NBL and the BAA for the Fort Wayne Pistons, and the Indianapolis Jets.
Bill Garrett was a pioneer at Indiana. He was the first black player at Indiana and the first black player in the Big Ten to start and play a significant role on his team. Garrett arrived at Indiana in 1947, the same year that Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball. For his entire four years, Garrett was the only player in the Big Ten who was black. It is hard to imagine what he must have endured.
Undaunted, Garrett would not falter, and he became a fan favorite at Indiana, earning consensus All-American honors in 1951.
He went on to become a second-round pick of the Boston Celtics in 1951, only the third black player ever drafted into the NBA. The US Army also drafted Garrett in 1951, during the Korean War, and his military service really derailed his professional basketball opportunity.
Upon returning from his military service, the Celtics had moved on from Garrett, releasing him because they already had their quota of two black players on the team. He did spend a couple of years with the Harlem Globetrotters but eventually found his way into high school basketball coaching, where he would lead Crispus Attucks boys’ basketball team to their third State Championship in 1959.
BOBBY “SLICK” LEONARD
We recently lost the next guy on the list, Bobby “Slick” Leonard, who earned Second Team All-American in 1954. In 1953, Slick had hit the game-winning free throw that gave Indiana the NCAA National Championship that year.
Slick did go on to play professionally in the NBA for 7 years, but he is best known for his coaching exploits. I am not going to go into too much detail here, because I am hoping to have a full article about Slick on Hoosier State of Mind in the near future.
Let’s move on the next Hoosier legend, Archie Dees. Dees earned Second Team All-American honors in 1958. A 6-foot-8 forward/center Archie Dees is one of only three players in Big Ten history to win more than one Big Ten MVP award. Dees won the award in 1957 and 1958. The only other players to do that were Jerry Lucas and Scott May. Dees went on to play four seasons in the NBA.
The next Hoosier to earn the All-American honors was legendary Walt Bellamy. Bellamy was a Second Team All-American in 1961. Often left out in discussions about the greatest players in Indiana history, Bellamy certainly belongs on the list. His career numbers are staggering. As a senior, Bellamy averaged 17.8 rebounds per game, which is astounding. In his final game as a Hoosier, he had a 33-rebound game—a Big Ten record that still stands to this day.
Bellamy would be the first player in Indiana history to be the number 1 pick in the NBA Draft, and also the first one to win Rookie of the Year. Bellamy had a 14-year NBA career that saw him play in 4 All-Star Games while averaging 20.1 points per game and 13.7 rebounds. Bellamy also won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
I totally underestimated how much fun writing this was going to be and how long the article was going to become, so I have made the executive decision to make this two-part series a three-part series.
So, Lord willing, I will finish up the last part of this series in the next day or two and get it posted asap for your reading enjoyment.
It has been fun looking back at the players who have helped to build Indiana into one of the most historically successful basketball programs in college basketball history.
And I am really hoping that Coach Woodson can help one really special player on the current Hoosier roster add his name to this illustrious list.
Yes, I am talking to you Trayce Jackson-Davis.