NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, the Tennessee State family mourns the loss of John Barnhill, one of the greatest basketball players to compete at the university.
John Barnhill was the point guard on TSU's NAIA 1957-59 National Championship Teams and he assisted legendary TSU alum Dick Barnett on many of his buckets. Barnhill was good around the basket too, tallying 1,253 points during his career as a Tiger.
Barnhill’s career point number ranks him 19th all-time, which is quite impressive considering the hundreds of Tigers that have played at TSU since the 62 years since he retired.
Barnhill’s ability around the bucket and the publicity of the titles made professional teams take note of him.
In 1959, the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks took a chance on Barnhill with their 11th round draft pick.
Barnhill played an average of 21 quality minutes per game for the Hawks, and tallied 8.5 points per game.
A few years later, in 1966, the Chicago Bulls were set to join the NBA. The Bulls liked what they saw from Barnhill and gained the rights to draft the guard from Barnhill’s old team.
Barnhill never played for the Bulls, as the Baltimore Bullets bought his rights from Chicago. Barnhill averaged eight points per contest with the Bullets, causing him to get drafted by the NBA’s newest team- the San Diego Rockets.
Barnhill averaged 13 points and four assists per game during his NBA career.
Following his playing career, Barnhill was an NBA assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, assisting Bill Sharman; he acted as the Lakers' interim coach during the 1974-75 season, while Sharman's wife was ill with cancer
Barnhill eventually ended his career with the Indiana Pacers of the ABA in 1972, and was inducted into the Tennessee State Sports Hall of Fame in 1983.
He will be remembered as a student, player, leader, champion and a Tiger. Barnhill was 75.