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Monday, February 14, 2005
NASHVILLE --- Former Tennessee State University basketball great Dick Barnett will have his jersey retired at Thursday night's home game against Murray State at the Gentry Center on the main campus. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Barnett's No. 35 is the first basketball jersey to be retired at TSU. A banner bearing Barnett's name and uniform number will be hoisted to the rafters in the Gentry Center and he will be presented with a framed replica of his jersey by TSU president James A. Hefner and TSU athletics director Teresa L. Phillips. On Friday, Feb. 18, Barnett will be honored with induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will be at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville. "We are honored to celebrate the premier basketball player in TSU's proud athletic history," Phillips said. "Dick 'Skull' Barnett was a leader on and off the court. I think it is fitting that the first jersey retired by the TSU basketball program is Dick Barnett's No. 35. It is a tribute fitting of his legendary status." Barnett is TSU's all-time leading scorer with 3,009 points. He accomplished this feat by averaging 23.6 career points in 136 games in four seasons (1955-1959) with the Tigers. Barnett was a three-time NCAA All-American, three-time Associated Press All-American, Chuck Taylor All-American, four-time district Most Valuable Player, four-time Mid-Western Conference MVP, and NAIA Tournament MVP in 1958 and 1959. In his first season at Tennessee State, Barnett's presence immediately created excitement on Jefferson Street as he led legendary TSU coach John McLendon's "Whiz Kids" to a 28-8 record. During Barnett's sophomore season, the Tigers raced to a 31-4 record, en route to capturing their first NAIA title with Barnett averaging 22.4 points per game. In the 1956-57 season, Barnett led TSU to its second-consecutive NAIA title with a 31-3 record. During 1958-59 season, the Tigers' domination continued as they complied a 25-1 record. Barnett's 35.3 points per game tournament scoring average led the Tigers to a third consecutive NAIA title. In 1959, Barnett was a first round draft pick of the Syracuse Nationals where he averaged 16.9 points per game during the 1960-61 season. He later played in the American Basketball League with the Cleveland Pipers in 1962, and led them to an ABL Championship. The next season, the Los Angeles Lakers gave Barnett the largest signing bonus to date to join the Lakers. Barnett joined Laker temmates Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, where Barnett averaged 18.4 points per game during his tenure in Los Angeles. After three seasons with the Lakers, Barnett joined the New York Knicks where he played along side NBA greats Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley and Dave Debussere. That core group went on capture two NBA Championships in 1970 anf 1973. Barnett later was an assistant coach for the Knicks. In 1990, Barnett's Knicks jersey was retired by the Knicks organization. Barnett holds degrees from Tennessee State University and New York University. He later obtained a doctorate from Fordham University. He has served as a professor of sports management at St. John's University in New York. Barnett's post-NBA work includes providing leadership for at-risk youth with the Athletic Role Model Educational Institution, an organization that seeks to enhance self-esteem among young African Americans. The organization provides programs, opportunities and experiences to develop youth. Barnett was recently named commissioner of the World Basketball League.