EVANSVILLE, Ind. --- Tennessee State men’s basketball legends Dr. Dick Barnett and the late John McLendon were recognized for their careers with their enshrinement into the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Ford Center on Thursday night. Barnett and McLendon are part of the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame’s inaugural class.
“It’s a pleasure for me to be here to support John (McLendon) and his dream of having a small college hall of fame and obviously, it fits right into my wheel house,” said Barnett. “I often talk about education and dreams, which has played a prominent part in my development. At my age, I’ve been able to turn my dreams into a life-long adventure.”
The day began with a press conference where Barnett and the other inductees were introduced to the media before answering questions about their careers and the current state of the college game.
The ceremony inside the Ford Center featured video introductions of each honoree followed by speeches from the Hall of Famers in attendance.
Barnett, who was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007, was named to the NAIA 75th Anniversary All-Star team in 2012. A first round NBA draft pick by the Syracuse Nationals, Barnett helped lead Tennessee State to NAIA National Championships in 1957, 1958 and 1959. He was a three-time Associated Press Little College All-American and holds TSU records for points in a game (48), season (920) and career (3,209).
Barnett played 14 seasons in the NBA, suiting up for the Syracuse Nationals, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks. In addition to having his number retired by Tennessee State, Barnett’s number is also retiree by his high school as well as the New York Knicks.
One of the most celebrated coaches in the history of basketball, McLendon was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor in 1979 and as a coach in April of 2016. During his time at Tennessee A&I, he guided the Tigers to three NAIA National Championships and had a 144-20 record from 1954-59.
During his career, McLendon coached on the collegiate level at North Carolina Central, Hampton, TSU, Kentucky State and Cleveland State. In professional basketball, he was the first African American to coach the pro game with the Cleveland Pipers of the American Basketball League in 1961, and he also coached the Denver Rockets of the American Basketball Association. McLendon, who passed away in 1999, learned under the inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, when McLendon was a student at the University of Kansas.
In terms of criteria for selection into the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame, the committee used the following basic guidelines:
- Must have played, coached or contributed at the small college level (four-year, non-NCAA Division I)
- Focus is on accomplishments/contributions specifically at the collegiate level
- Players must be a minimum of five years removed from their final year of their collegiate career. Coaches must be a minimum of three years removed from their last season of their coaching career. There is no such timetable for contributors.
- The Inaugural Class will consist of 15 members. Subsequent classes will consist of 8-12 members.
- Each Class will have a minimum of one inductee from each of three categories: Player, Coach and Contributor.
- All players, coaches and contributors that have not been inducted into the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame will continue to be eligible for annual consideration, as long as they meet the above guidelines. There is no timetable whereby candidates rotate off/out of consideration.
Dr. Dick Barnett (Tennessee A&I)
Bevo Francis (Rio Grande)
John Ebeling (Florida Southern)
Travis Grant (Kentucky State)
Bob Hopkins (Grambling)
Lucious Jackson (Pan American College)
Phil Jackson (North Dakota)
Earl Monroe (Winston-Salem State)
Willis Reed (Grambling)
John Rinka (Kenyon)
Jerry Sloan (Evansville)
Clarence Gaines (Winston-Salem State)
Arad McCutchan (Evansville)
John McLendon (North Carolina College, Hampton, Tennessee A&I, Kentucky State & Cleveland State)
Dr. James Naismith
Dr. Dick Barnett
“It’s a remembrance that I really appreciate. It’s always good to be remembered and acknowledged for your contributions.”
- On being inducted into the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame
“Obviously, Tennessee State is the nexus of the induction. We were playing at Tennessee State and playing with the great legacy that Dr. Davis left and Coach McLendon, so all of that plays a major part in this induction.”
- On representing Tennessee State
“It’s always good to have Coach McLendon acknowledged as a great coach. He finally was inducted as a coach into the Naismith Hall of Fame, which should have been done years ago, but obviously, his achievement is well noted.”
- On going into the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame with Coach John McLendon
“It’s something that most people don’t realize. Most of these guys, if given the opportunity, could have played at any university. By happenstance or circumstance, they ended up at a small college.”
- On representing small college basketball around the nation