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Former Kelly Miller star named to state hall of fame

by Anthony Hanshew

SPORTS EDITOR

From the time he donned a high school varsity jersey as a seventh-grader, Bob Wilson always seemed ahead of the pack.

The North Central West Virginia legend brought state basketball titles to Kelly Miller High School and national trophies to West Virginia State. Later, he would enjoy a brief stint in the fledgling National Basketball Association before a knee injury halted his playing career.

Wilson shrugged off the setback and continued to be a leader -- this time in the community. He has dedicated the past four decades to youth efforts, specifically with the YMCA in Newark, N.J.

For those efforts and more, the 72-year-old Wilson has been showered with lifetime achievement awards.

The latest will bring Wilson back to the Mountain State.

On May 7, Wilson will be inducted into the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame at the 54th annual Victory Awards Dinner at the Marshall University Student Union in Huntington. He also had been inducted into halls of fame at West Virginia State, the Harlem YMCA Branch and Springfield College (Ohio), where he earned a master's degree.

More recently, Wilson was selected in 1997 by the Black College Sports Review as one of the 50 greatest basketball players in the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Others included NBA greats Earl Monroe, Al Attles, Sam Jones and Bob Dandridge.

Wilson maintains he quickly grew accustomed to being in the company of greatness. It all began in Clarksburg.

"It's a great town and great people," Wilson said via telephone from his Newark, N.J. home. "There were some really good athletes in the Glen Elk area."

Wilson starred during the days of segregation. He was a bit of a prodigy as a 6-foot-4, 220-pound center with excellent moves in the paint.

Twice an all-state selection, Wilson led his beloved Kelly Miller to three straight state championships from 1942-44.

"That was one of the greatest high schools in the nation," Miller said. "We had a glass backboard -- schools didn't have those back then -- and we had a swimming pool."

Wilson appeared headed for Long Island University following high school, but he instead was drafted by the Army, a move he sees as a blessing in disguise.

In the next fews years, LIU's program was decimated by a gambling scandal in which players fixed games.

"I'm glad I did (get drafted), because if I hadn't I might've gotten caught up in shaving points," Wilson said with a chuckle.

Instead, Wilson reunited with his coach at Kelly Miller, Mark Cardwell, at West Virginia State. They teamed to win CIAA national tournament titles in 1948 and '49; the Yellow Jackets were the only unbeaten team in America (23-0) in 1948.

Cardwell is a state hall of fame inductee.

Wilson's career continued after college with a brieft stint as a Harlem Globetrotter before he and former W.Va. State teammate Earl Lloyd shifted their attention to the NBA.

Lloyd became the first black to play in the league. Wilson soon followed.

Once there, he enjoyed memorable matchups with some all-time greats.

"I played in Boston," Wilson said. "(NBA Hall of Famer Bob) Cousy couldn't handle me because I'd go in the pivot."

After his career-ending injury, Wilson began what would become a 38-year run with the YMCA. He retired in 1994, but still serves as the executive vice president of the YMCA retirement fund.

Wilson is the 154th inductee and will be presented by Lloyd.

In addition to the May 7 ceremony, Wilson will be making another West Virginia visit later in the year. He plans to attend the Kelly Miller High School reunion in early July.

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