Greatest Basketball Players - Bill Russell - U of SF Dons

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Greatest NCAA College Basketball Careers of All Time: Bill Russell Born February 12, 1934 in Louisiana, Bill Russell was a late bloomer when it came to basketball. Cut from his junior high team, it wasn’t until his later high school years where he began to show potential as a quality basketball player. The University of San Francisco was the only school to offer Russell a sports scholarship. In 1954, USF coach Phil Woolpert became the first coach to place three African Americans on the starting lineup, which would forever leave Russell’s imprint on college basketball history. However, that was not the only reason. During a string of 55 consecutive victories, Russell led USF to championships in both 1955 and 1956. He was a defender, a shot blocker, and not to mention a track and field star. He was once ranked as the seventh best high jumper in the world. It was his numbers on the basketball court that everyone would remember though. During his college years he averaged 20.7 points per game and 20.3 rebounds per game. He was responsible for the “Russell Rules,” which were changes that widened the lane from six to twelve feet, forcing centers to play further from the basket. UCLA’s legendary coach John Wooden even went so far as to claim Russell as quote “the greatest defensive man I’ve ever seen.” After an unsuccessful attempt to lure Russell by the Harlem Globetrotters, he would join the Boston Celtics as what coach Red Auerbach called, his team’s missing link. In that first year with the added defensive dominance of Russell, the Celtics would earn their first NBA championship.