— By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — It’s been known Marshall University is going to honor one of its greatest athletes with a statue.
Thundering Herd fans got to see the model sculpture of that statue recognizing basketball legend Hal Greer at halftime of Saturday night’s game between Marshall and rival Western Kentucky at Cam Henderson Center.
Greer, a Huntington native, played high school basketball at Douglass High School and then became Marshall’s first black scholarship athlete. After he made his mark in the Green and White, Greer went on to a standout NBA career with the Philadelphia 76ers. He later was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and Marshall athletics Hall of Fame. He died in April. He was 81.
The Greer family, wife Mayme, daughters Kelly and Cherie, son Harold Jr. and Green’s sister Jean, along with sculptor Frederick Hightower took part in the halftime ceremony. Fans got to see a video tribute to Greer first and then Hightower, who is from Huntington, brought out the model sculpture. When complete, the Greer status is expected to stand 7 feet, 5 inches tall.
“Hal Greer is a trailblazer,” said Mike Hamrick, Marshall’s director of athletics, said in a university release. “He set the stage for black athletes throughout our great state and country. His ability on the court is unquestioned. He took his talents from Huntington to Marshall and then to the NBA, where he is regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time. This statue is a deserved tribute for Hal and his family.”
Hightower was selected by a committee formed by Marshall president Jerome A. Gilbert, who wanted to erect a memorial for Greer.
“He’s one of the best athletes to come from Huntington, West Virginia, hands down,” Hightower said. “He was the major person in Huntington and his name, Hal Greer, resonates. For me to do this is an honor. He’s a major part of the community I grew up in. I’ve been in his shadow my whole life. This means a lot to me.”
The selection committee was made up of representatives of the Big Green Scholarship Foundation, athletic department, the College of Arts and Media, the administration and faculty, and included one person who played with Hal and knew him well, and one a person who is a sculptor.
“It is absolutely fitting that Marshall University honor not only one of the finest student-athletes ever to play here, but also our first black scholarship student-athlete,” Gilbert said. “I’ve talked to a number of people who knew Hal and I’m incredibly proud to call him a Son of Marshall. He was a great basketball player and, as I’ve been told, a wonderful person and role model. One of my hopes since coming to Marshall was that there would be another opportunity to highlight Hal’s legacy at Marshall. I can’t wait to see the finished statue.”
Greer was born on June 26, 1936. He scored 1,377 points and led Marshall to the 1956 Mid-American Conference championship and the program’s first NCAA tournament berth.
Greer played in the NBA from 1958 through 1973. He was with the Syracuse Nationals and 76ers. He was a 10-time NBA All-Star, was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Star Time and had his uniform No. 15 retired.
Those interested in contributing to the project should visit HerdZone.com or call the Big Green at 304-696-4661. The Big Green offices are located at 1900 3rd Avenue on the left side of the City National Bank building.