🏀 Kansas Great Walt Wesley Passes

Kansas great Walt Wesley died at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, Thursday morning. According to his KU coach, Ted Owens, Wesley was with his wife Denise who was holding his hand when he passed. Owens and Wesley’s KU teammates Riney Lochmann and Al Lopes were able to talk with Wesley on the phone earlier in the week. Wesley was 79 years old and had been fighting leukemia the past few years.

From Fort Myers, Florida, Wesley was a two-time Consensus All-American at Kansas in 1965 and 1966. Wesley, who stood 6-foot, 11-inches, was also a two-time All-Big Eight selection following his junior and senior seasons. Wesley’s career average of 19.3 points per game ranks in the top 10 on the KU all-time scoring average list and his 1,315 career points are 33rd. He averaged over 20 points in his junior and senior seasons.

“Walt Wesley is one of the finest men I have ever known,” Owens said. “He was so loved by his teammates and coaches. He was just an extraordinary man. He came to Kansas and worked so hard to develop into the great player that he was. He loved the University of Kansas and loved being a part of Kansas basketball. He touched all of our lives. I can’t say enough about Walt. He was so loved by his teammates.”

Kansas Jayhawks

“No one loved Kansas basketball more than Walt Wesley,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “At 6-11, he was one of the true giants when he played, which led him to being a two-time All-American. Walt would come back to Lawrence often and it was always great to see him. He was such a great ambassador for Kansas basketball. Our thoughts and prayers are with Denise and his family. We lost a KU great and his legacy will live forever in Kansas basketball history.”

Owens was the assistant coach who recruited Wesley out of Dunbar High School in Fort Myers, Florida. Wesley played under KU head coach Dick Harp his freshman and sophomore seasons, then for Owens his All-American campaigns in 1965 and 1966. Kansas won the Big Eight Holiday Tournament in 1964 and 1965 and was the Big Eight regular-season champion in 1966, advancing to the NCAA Tournament with a 23-4 record.

Wesley was selected sixth overall pick by the Cincinnati Royals in the 1966 NBA Draft and had a successful 10-year career playing for numerous teams in the NBA from 1967 to 1976. He held the Cleveland Cavaliers single-game scoring record of 50 points for more than 30 years until it was broken by LeBron James in 2008, who utilized three-point baskets, which was not a part of the game when the record was established by Wesley.

After playing professional basketball, Wesley served as a Division I college basketball coach for more than 25 years at Kansas, Western Michigan and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After his retirement from coaching, Wesley served as an Executive Director for the Police Athletic League in Fort Myers, Florida.

Kansas Jayhawks

Wesley’s Kansas jersey, No. 13 was officially retired on Dec. 18, 2004. He was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2014 and the Ohio Sports Hall of Fame in 2018. Additionally, he was inducted into the Fort Myers Dunbar High School Hall of Fame, the National Negro High School Basketball Hall of Fame, the National High School Basketball Hall of Fame and the Court of Legends by the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches. Wesley also received the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity “Jessie Owens Award of Excellence” for athletic and philanthropic accomplishments, which he received in 2010.

Wesley would often make the trip from Fort Myers, Florida, to Lawrence to catch a Kansas game and participate in Kansas Basketball reunions. He attended KU’s 125-Year celebration in January 2023 and later that season, Wesley was honored as the men’s basketball recipient in the Marian E. Washington Trailblazer Series. The Marian E. Washington Trailblazer series was created in February 2020 to highlight influential African-American Jayhawks in multiple sports throughout each Black History Month.

Services for Wesley will be in Fort Myers, Florida, at the Mt. Olive A.M.E. Church on Friday, April 5 at 1 p.m. ET.