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Univ. of Idaho

Former Vandal enshrined in Naismith Hall of Fame

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Gus Johnson (right) played for Idaho during the 1962-63 season and still holds the single-season records for rebounds (Photo: Univ. of Idaho Athletics) Gus Johnson (right) played for Idaho during the 1962-63 season and still holds the single-season records for rebounds (Photo: Univ. of Idaho Athletics)

by Univ. of Idaho Athletics

INDIANAPOLIS – The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced eight individuals and two teams among its 2010 Enshrinement Class on Monday, including University of Idaho legend, Gus Johnson among its honorees.

Johnson, who played for Idaho in the 1962-63 season, was honored in a class that also included Jerry Buss, Cynthia Cooper, Bob Hurley, Sr., Dennis Johnson, Karl Malone, Maciel "Ubiratan" Pereira, and Scottie Pippen, as well as the 1960 USA Men's Olympic team and the 1992 USA Basketball "Dream Team."

"The Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2010 represents everything that is great about the game of basketball," said Jerry Colangelo, Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Board. "From the two gold medal winning USA Olympic Teams, to a high school coach who dedicated his life to the game, to a diverse group of individuals who have excelled as collegians, professionals and great contributors to our sport, this group of Hall of Famers will be known as one of the great classes in history."

Johnson's No. 43 jersey was retired at Idaho in 1987, and he was inducted into the inaugural class of the Vandal Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007. He holds Idaho single-season records for rebounds (466) and rebound average (20.3), which ranked second in the NCAA in 1963. Johnson owns 12 of the top 14 single-game rebounding totals in Idaho history, including the record of 31 on Feb. 9, 1963 against Oregon.

Crowds in the thousands would line up outside Idaho's Memorial Gym hours before tip-off hoping to see Johnson in action. The 3,500-seat gym would often pack in crowds upwards of 5,000 during home games.

The Idaho student yearbook chronicled a typical Vandal home game scene at Memorial Gym: "Seats at Memorial Gym were as scarce as snowballs in July… It was a common sight to see the Gym all but filled at 6:00 with long lines of people waiting for tickets."

After leading the Vandal men to a 20-6 record in 1963, the NBA's Baltimore Bullets selected Johnson with the 10th overall pick in the 1963 NBA draft. He went on to play an 11-year professional career that included five NBA All-Star games, four selections to the all-NBA second team and two NBA all-Defensive Team selections. He finished second in the NBA Rookie of the Year balloting in 1964.

Johnson was known as one of the first high-flyers in the game of basketball and one of the pioneers of the dunk. He was a gritty defender and a strong rebounder, but he was also one of the game's first great showmen. He wowed crowds with his behind-the-back passes and thunderous dunks – he shattered three backboards during his NBA career.

Johnson led the Bullets to five playoff appearances in nine seasons, including a 1971 NBA Finals appearance against the Milwaukee Bucks. He also played for the Phoenix Suns and helped the Indiana Pacers win the 1973 ABA Championship. The Bullets retired his No. 25 jersey in December of 1986.

Former Bullets owner Abe Pollin said in a newspaper article about Johnson, "I first saw Gus on television...I had never seen a player dominate a game so. Gus was the Dr. J of his time and anyone that ever had the privilege to see him play will never forget what a great basketball player Gus Johnson was."

Johnson's No. 43 was retired in January of 1987 in a ceremony at his hometown of Akron, Ohio. He died in April of that year.

To be elected, finalists required 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Class of 2010 will be enshrined at the Springfield Symphony Hall on August 13, following a week of festivities in Springfield, Massachusetts to be staged August 7-13, 2010.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is located in Springfield, Mass., the city where basketball was invented. It was founded in 1959 to honor the contributions of players, coaches, executives, referees and other major contributors to the game of basketball, from the high school to professional level.

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