EVANSVILLE, INDIANA – Two Kentucky State University and small college basketball legends were among the inductees into the inaugural class of the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame on Thursday at the Ford Center.
Travis Grant and John McLendon were those honored, along with other illustrious members of their class. Other household names among basketball fans included Earl Monroe, Willis Reed, Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Luscious Jackson and James Naismith.
Grant talked about learning the game by playing on dirt, shooting into a hoop that he made and nailed to his house. His jump shot has been called the greatest in the history of basketball by many.
“He was a first-round draft choice by the Los Angeles Lakers. He signed his contract, and he got his bonus and what did he do?” John McCarthy, Small College Basketball Hall of Fame founder, said. “He went back to the dirt of Alabama, picked up his mama, and said, ‘Mama, jump in the car and come with me. We’re going to go buy you a house today.’”
McCarthy said Grant took care of his mother until the day she died.
“Travis Grant is a good man, folks,” McCarthy said. “Everybody hears about the records and the points he scored and the really great jump shot and the national championships. But I’m going to tell you, behind-the-scenes I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Travis Grant. That’s a good man.”
Grant is a former College Basketball Player of the Year, a three-time NAIA All-American, a two-time NAIA Championship Most Valuable Player, college basketball’s all-time leading scorer with 4,045 points and a member of three NAIA championship teams.
Other highlights from Grant’s career include scoring 75 points in a single game and holding the NAIA Tournament records for points in a game, points in a tournament, points in a career, field goals in a game, field goals in a tournament and field goals in a career.
McLendon is the first college coach ever to win three consecutive national championships, a former NAIA Coach of the Year and finished his career with a 73.5 winning percentage through 25 seasons at Tennessee State, Kentucky State, North Carolina Central, Hampton and Cleveland State.
McLendon is also the inventor of the full-court press and the four corners offense. At Cleveland State, he was the first African-American head coach of a predominantly white university.
A tribute video was presented during the induction ceremony, honoring McLendon’s long and illustrious career.
The full list of inductees includes Dr. Dick Barnett, Bevo Francis, John Ebeling, Travis Grant, Bob Hopkins, Lucious Jackson, Phil Jackson, Earl Monroe, Willis Reed, John Rinka, Jerry Sloan, Clarence Gains, Ara McCutchan and John McLendon.