Saluki athletics celebrates 50th anniversary of the 1967 NIT championship


Daily Egyptian File Photo

Walt Frazier is announced during halftime of the Salukis’ 75-70 loss to Evansville on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, at SIU Arena. Frazier attended the game to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Salukis’ 1967 National Invitation Tournament championship.

By Jonathan Thompson

The 1967 team was honored at halftime of the men’s basketball home game against Evansville on Saturday and received a standing ovation from 5,490 spectators.

“I told [the 1967 team] that they had set the standard for Saluki basketball and the word Saluki being known nationwide because of what they did and their contribution,” coach Barry Hinson said.

Back in March 1967 the SIU men’s basketball team beat Marquette 71-56 after trailing earlier in the game to give the program its first championship.


The Salukis were ranked No.1 in the College Division but turned down a spot in the NCAA tournament to compete in what was at the time more prestigious — the National Invitational Tournament.

They finished with a record of 20-2 that season.

“They came to us and told us the scenario: The NIT had never invited a small college before,” former player Walt Frazier said. “The option was we could go to a small tournament or we wait and see if the NIT would accept us. So collectively we all voted that we’ll take a gamble to see what happens with NIT. We wanted that challenge.”

Walt Frazier, who led SIU’s 1967 squad to win the National Invitation Tournament, signs a fans T-shirt on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, after SIU’s 75-70 loss to the Evansville Purple Aces at SIU Arena. (Luke Nozicka | @lukenozicka)

This game contributed to what would be the success of Frazier’s career. He was named Most Valuable player of the tournament. He also went on to be drafted by the New York Knicks where he won two NBA championships. Frazier has also been called one of the 50 greatest players in basketball.

“I’ve had the fortunate ability at Kansas to be around some superstars … people of superstar status,” Hinson said. “I watched a group of guys last night at the banquet … all they did is talk about Walt Frazier.

On the other hand, Hinson said, Frazier just spoke about his teammates.

“I told him that I had never been more impressed with his humility, his ability to be humble, to speak so well and so kindly about Carbondale and SIU and his teammates,” Hinson said.


Frazier was most well-known from the team, but he wasn’t the only player to go on to professional ball. 6’3″ guard Dick Garrett was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers and played five seasons. During a season with the Milwaukee Bucks he faced off against Frazier in the NBA finals.

Walt Frazier signs autographs following the Salukis’ 75-70 loss to Evansville on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, at SIU Arena. Frazier attended the game to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Salukis’ 1967 National Invitation Tournament championship. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

“I still remember the last game,” Garrett said. “As a rookie I figured I know Walt cause we played a lot together. I held my own for the first six games and the seventh game I couldn’t do anything with him.”

Frazier scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the NIT championship game.

“My time here at SIU groomed me for the person I am,” Frazier said. “What would’ve been my junior year I was ineligible to play because of poor grades. That was the making of Walt Frazier, because nobody helped me. The coaches didn’t help me. I had to do everything myself. I registered my classes. I had to find my housing. I had to do everything. That’s when I grew up as a person. I started to take on my responsibilities. I developed discipline. I always look back on that one year of adversity in my life as a really positive experience.”

Staff writer Jonathan Thompson can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @TheReal_Jt3.

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