Naismith Statue Unveiled at DeBruce Center
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kim Tefft put the finishing touches on his father’s long-time project Friday afternoon by unveiling a bronze statue of Dr. James Naismith outside the new DeBruce Center, which is connected to historic Allen Fieldhouse.
The bronze sculpture, which weighs approximately 320 pounds, was created by longtime KU professor and world-renown sculptor Elden Tefft, Kim’s father. Naismith, the inventor of basketball, is wearing a suit and sitting down, holding a ball on his right leg. Peach baskets stacked inside each other rest on the ground in front of him.
“The statue is a part of a dream my father had,” Kim Tefft said. “He always dreamed of the tri-memorial to the history of basketball, the Naismith international tri-memorial to basketball, marking three key points in Naismith’s life that pertain to basketball. One of these is in Almonte, Canada, where he was born. Another one is at Springfield University in Massachusetts, where he invented the game of basketball. And now here in Lawrence, Kansas, at KU, which Naismith adopted as his hometown. This is the cradle of basketball, where the game grew up. That completes the three points in Naismith’s life pertaining to basketball.”
Elden Tefft began creating the Naismith sculptures in the early 2000s, but died in February 2015, at the age of 95 before he could complete the third one, which now rests outside the DeBruce Center. Kim Tefft, an apprentice sculptor, finished the work in March 2016.
“This was my father’s labor of love,” Tefft said. “He would start a project, whether he had anybody interested in it or not, because he thought it was a good idea. This is his last major work. To be able to finish it up for him and see it here is just wonderful. It is larger than life size to carry its weight in an outdoor location.”
Some of Elden Tefft’s other bronze works adorn the KU grounds, including a statue of Moses located outside Smith Hall. He also created the iconic Academic Jayhawk sculpture, which sits just south of Strong Hall along Jayhawk Boulevard.
The DeBruce Center will officially open its doors in late April or early May. The 32,000-square-foot venue, made possible by a leadership gift from the DeBruce Foundation, will permanently house Naismith’s original “Rules of Basket Ball”, strengthening KU’s tie to the inventor of the game and the Jayhawks’ first coach. Naismith’s original “Rules of Basket Ball”, written in 1891, will be displayed prominently in the building and will be flanked by the stories of Naismith, “the Father of Basketball,” and Dr. F.C. “Phog” Allen, “the Father of Basketball Coaching.”
With a connection to Allen Fieldhouse and the Booth Family Hall of Athletics through the second-floor concourse, the DeBruce Center will support future exhibits around the history of the game and Kansas’ rich basketball tradition.
The center will also include a student activity center, built to accommodate seating for 320, that includes retail dining, café seating, a new training table setting for both the KU men’s and women’s basketball teams, and a space for catered events.
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