Born: January 25, 1945 (Fort Myers, FL)
Graduated: Dunbar High School (Fort Myers, FL), 1962; University of Kansas, 1966
Growing up in the segregated South, Walter “Walt” Wesley’s childhood could hardly be described as easy. Despite standing six feet, eleven inches tall, Wesley was scarcely recruited out of Dunbar High School in Fort Myers, Florida. Only a handful of Midwestern schools were interested in Wesley until University of Kansas assistant basketball coach, and Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Ted Owens knocked on Wesley’s door.
Owens, the lead recruiter for then head coach and Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Dick Harp, knew talent and dedication in a player when he saw it. During an in-home visit with Wesley and his parents, Owens told the family that he believed that if Wesley committed to play in Kansas, that someday he would be an All-American.
Hard-work sets the stage for stardom
Of course, it took a lot of hard work on Wesley’s part to live up to those expectations. Hauling a frame of his size up the hills on the campus of the University of Kansas during conditioning was hard work, not to mention the fact that Owens required Wesley to stay after practice each day until he made 150 jump shots before he could leave the court. However the hard work that Wesley turned in for the Jayhawks in practice, paid off during the season and propelled Wesley to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame today.
Wesley showed flashes of greatness and finished second on the team in scoring during his first year of eligibility as a sophomore at KU in 1963-1964, which set the stage for his monumental junior and senior years in Lawrence.
As a junior during the 1964-1965 season, Wesley announced to the world that he had arrived with a forty-two point effort early in the season against Loyola Chicago, a team that was just one year removed from winning the NCAA Championship. As the season progressed, Wesley even drew comparisons to another KU big man and Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Wilt Chamberlain.
After leading the Jayhawks in scoring and rebounding as a junior in 1965, Wesley was named an All-Big 8 first-team and a first-team All-American performer. For the season, Wesley averaged 23.5 points per contest to go along with nearly nine rebounds per game.
As an encore during his senior year for the crimson and blue, Wesley averaged just over twenty points and grabbed 9.3 rebounds per game in 1966 on his way to once again being selected as a first-team All-Big 8 selection and a first-team All-American.
Wesley was selected in the first round of the 1966 NBA Draft by the Cincinnati Royals. He went on to play in ten NBA seasons with eight teams, scoring over 5,000 points and snagging over 3,000 rebounds. For his professional career, Wesley averaged 8.5 points per game with 5.5 rebounds.
The highlight of Wesley’s professional career came during the 1970-1971 season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wesley averaged 17.7 points per game that season and on February 19, 1971, Wesley put up fifty points against the Cincinnati Royals to set a franchise record for points scored in a game, a record which stood for thirty-four years until it was broken by LeBron James in 2005.