Bellamy still a staple of IU record book

Bellamy still a staple of IU record book

Catching up with … Walt Bellamy

By Lynn Houser, Herald-Times Sports Writer

January 9, 2007

Walt Bellamy averaged a double-double for his Indiana career, earning All-American honors in 1960 and 1961. H-T File photo.
From the Jan. 9, 2007 Bloomington Herald-Times

Of the many great centers IU has had in its glorious history — Don Schlundt, Archie Dees, Kent Benson, Ray Tolbert, Dean Garrett — you could argue that Walter Bellamy belongs at the top of the list.

His many records speak for themselves — most rebounds in a season (649), most rebounds in a single game (33), most double-doubles in a career (59), most rebounds in a three-year career (1,008).

Then you look at his 14-year NBA career, which started with him being the No. 1 pick in the 1961 draft and took off with him being named the 1962 Rookie of the Year. And he kept right on going, averaging a double-double for his career.

History has judged him accordingly. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1993 and named to IU’s All-Century Team in 2000.

“I just like to think I made a contribution to basketball,” Bellamy said over the phone from his Atlanta office. Bellamy is now acting as a public affairs consultant in Atlanta, where he spent part of his NBA career.

For all his accomplishments, Bellamy is a very modest man. He grew up in a small town in North Carolina, Newburn, and came to IU in the late 1950s, back in the days when black players were still a rare commodity.

“In the summer after my junior year of high school I played with some guys from Indiana,” he recalled. “Indiana at the time was the closest school to the South that would accept African-Americans. It was an easy transition for me to make. Not that I was naive to what was going on in Bloomington in terms of the times, but it didn’t translate to the athletic department or the classroom. Every relationship was good.”

Bellamy valued the relationship he had with his coach, Branch McCracken.

“Coach McCracken touched all student athletes,” he said. “I felt prepared. Did he holler and throw chairs? No, but he certainly was effective in preparing men to play basketball and to be a success in life.”

Bellamy also credited McCracken’s assistants, Lou Watson and Don Luft, for helping him learn how to play the post.

Walt Bellamy.
From the Jan. 9, 2007 Bloomington Herald-Times

“Lou Watson and Don Luft were excellent disciples of positioning and the first step,” he said.

Although Bellamy averaged 20.6 points and 15.5 rebounds in his IU career, it wasn’t that big of a deal at the time.

“There was no such (double-double) category as I recall, either at that level or the pro level,” Bellamy said. “It was just like the ‘assist’ today.”

Although IU did not win a Big Ten championship in Bellamy’s three years, he still made the All-American team in 1960 and ’61. His junior year he made the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team, a gold-medal winning squad that also featured Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas and Jerry West — “the greatest amateur team in the history of the Olympics,” Bellamy called it.

Bellamy became the first Hoosier to be the No. 1 pick of the NBA draft and lived up to it with a rookie year that ranked right up there with ones posted by Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Playing for the Chicago Packers, he averaged 31.6 points and 19.0 rebounds. He made the NBA All-Star Game that year and recorded a double-double, 23 points and 17 rebounds.

It was a year that even surprised himself.

“To play against guys you watched on television … Little did I know my talent would mesh with theirs,” he said.

Being named to IU’s All-Century Team is one of Bellamy’s most cherished honors.

“It was tremendous when the men and women of Indiana made that choice,” he said. “It’s a testimonial to the tradition they have at Indiana.”

Bellamy still looks back on his Indiana years as some of the very best in his life. For those high school athletes who skip college and jump straight to the pros, Bellamy feels they are missing out on something.

“I would go so far to say that they should at least experience the college atmosphere,” he said. “There is no better atmosphere.”

Walt Bellamy

Age: 67

Occupation: Public affairs consultant in Atlanta

IU career (1958-1961)

• Averaged a career double-double, 20.6 points, 15.5 rebounds

• 33 rebounds in a single game, still an IU and Big Ten record

• 1,088 career rebounds (IU’s second all-time)

• 1,441 career points (16th)

• Most career Big Ten rebounds by a Hoosier (649)

• IU’s single-season rebound record (428)

• Single-season rebound average (17.8)

• Most double-doubles by a Hoosier (59)

• Most Big Ten double-doubles by a Hoosier (36)

• 17 games with 20-10 double-doubles

• Six games with 30-10 double-doubles

• Two-time All-American

• Started on 1960 Gold Medal Olympic Basketbal team (along with Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Jerry Lucas)

Pro Career

National Basketball Association

• No. 1 pick in the 1961 NBA draft (IU’s first No. 1)

• 1962 NBA Rookie of the Year

• Led the NBA in field goal percentage, 1962

• Collected 23 points, 17 rebounds in 1962 All-Star Game

• Averaged a double-double (20.1, 13.6) over 14 seasons

• Inducted into Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, 1993

• Named to IU’s All-Century Team, 2000