SE: With HOF Induction, Boozer Remembered as Complete Player, Person

His jersey is among the few to hang in the rafters of Bramlage Coliseum. His many records are still printed in K-State’s media guide. His legacy will be fixated among the best to ever play basketball.  

Bob Boozer, the only two-time consensus All-American in K-State history, will be inducted posthumously into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday. Tickets for the induction ceremony, held at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland in Kansas City, are available online

Boozer is already a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for his part in the record-setting 1960 U.S. Olympic Team. He will become the third person with K-State ties to enter the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, following his legendary coach Tex Winter and Rolando Blackman. 

“He was a complete player. He was a great rebounder, filled the fast break, could hit the jump shot, could throw up a little hook… he was just outstanding,” said Don Matuszak, who played with Boozer for three seasons at K-State. “He never did not complete the play.”

Boozer, who died in 2012 at the age of 75, was undoubtedly an unstoppable basketball force. 

While at K-State (1956-59), he led the Wildcats to a three-year record of 62-15 (.805), two conference titles, a trip to the Final Four in 1958 and a 25-2 record the following year that ended with the program’s first and only No. 1 ranking to end a season. 

“Boozer led the charge for that,” Matuszak said. “He left a legacy of great basketball at Kansas State.” 

For Boozer’s career, he averaged 21.9 points on 44 percent shooting with 10.7 rebounds to make him one of two players (Willie Murrell) in school history to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in a career. 

Nearly 60 years after graduating from K-State, Boozer remains in numerous top 10 categories for single-game, single-season and career marks. He ranks first in career 20-point games (45), second in career scoring average (21.9) and career 30-point games (10), fourth in career rebounds (824) and fifth in career points (1,685). Additionally, Boozer holds the top marks for free throws made (529) and attempted (702) in a career, highlighted by his single-game record 23 makes (on 26 attempts) against Purdue in 1958. 

“You can look in the record books and the memories are there,” said Matuszak, Boozer’s college roommate and lifelong friend. “There’s not a game that Boozer just did not excel.” 

Boozer, a charter member of the K-State Sports Hall of Fame and the top vote-getter for the Wildcats’ All-Century Team, was the No. 1 pick in the 1959 NBA Draft. However, the 6-foot-8 power forward from Omaha, Nebraska, put his professional career on hold to retain his amateur status so he could try out for the 1960 Olympic squad. 

“Since I was young, I always dreamed of playing in the Olympics,” Boozer told K-State Sports Extra in 2010. “Some people in the NBA thought I was a fool to wait a year to start my professional career, but for me, it was the right thing to do. I knew it was a long shot to make the team, but it was going to be my only opportunity.” 

He did play 11 seasons in the NBA with six different teams, winning a championship in 1971 with the Milwaukee Bucks and finishing his career with 12,964 points (14.8 points per game) on 46 percent shooting. 

“You couldn’t block his shot,” Bob Love, a teammate of Boozer’s with the Chicago Bulls, said to the Associated Press in 2012. “He had those long arms and wide body. He couldn’t jump real high, but he had a quick shot. He’d get his shot off and get back under the hoop and put the ball back in the hole.”

Boozer left an imprint on nearly everyone he encountered, and a lot of times it had nothing to do with basketball. 
 
“He was voted favorite man on campus,” Matuszak said. “He was such a good guy. We clicked right away, but he clicked with everybody. He was just a terrific person.” 

Like his skills on court, Boozer’s charm off of it set him apart from most. 

“He was the favorite man on campus because he had a great personality,” Matuszak said. “He was friendly and warm to everybody. Everybody liked him.”

After retiring from basketball, he worked at Northwestern Bell (now CenturyLink) for 27 years, served three governors on the Nebraska State Parole Board and started a mentors program at Boys Town, a home for troubled youth near Omaha.  

“We came from the same type of background and just hit it off. He was just a pleasure to be around,” Oscar Robertson, who played against Boozer in the NCAA Tournament before joining forces with him in the Olympics and with the Cincinnati Royals, said to the Associated Press in 2012. “Bob wasn’t just a great individual for himself, but also for the city of Omaha and state of Nebraska.” 

“That identifies the kind of citizen he was,” Matuszak added. “You can’t find anybody better than Boozer.”