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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Former KU national champion Al Kelley dies at 83

Former KU men's basketball player Al Kelley, a member of the 1952 national championship team and 1960 Olympic gold medalist.

Former KU men's basketball player Al Kelley, a member of the 1952 national championship team and 1960 Olympic gold medalist.

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Al Kelley, one of Kansas basketball's 1952 national champions and a former Olympic gold medalist, passed away Saturday at the age of 83.

Kelley died in Lawrence, his family confirmed to Kansas Athletics on Saturday night.

A three-year letter winner at KU while playing for legendary head coach Phog Allen from 1952-54, Kelley was a sophomore on the 1952 NCAA National Championship team and one of the truly great ambassadors of his era for many associated with the program today.

"Al Kelley is Kansas basketball," KU coach Bill Self said in a news release. "He had a great career. He was always a pleasure when he would come to the office or a practice and was a fixture at home games. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Kelley, the younger brother of former KU great Dean Kelley, who passed away in 1996, was an all-Big Seven Conference first-team selection during both his junior and senior seasons. In his three seasons at KU, Kelley won an NCAA title, three Big Seven Conference regular-season championships and two Big Seven Holiday Tournaments. He was KU's second-leading scorer as a junior (12.9 ppg) and followed that up by finishing as the team's third-leading scorer (12.4) during his senior season in which he served as team captain.

Kelley also was a member of the 1960 USA Men's Olympic team that was enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in 2010. His gold medal resides in the Booth Family Hall of Athletics in Allen Fieldhouse.

Following his KU career, Kelley was chosen in the seventh round, 56th overall, in the 1954 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Hawks. Kelley chose instead to play for the AAU Caterpillars in Peoria, Illinois. In his first season with the Caterpillars in 1954, Kelley helped lead the team to the AAU national title and the 1954 World Basketball Championship in Brazil.

Originally from McCune, Kansas, Kelley and his wife Barbara, of Oskaloosa, Kansas, lived in Lawrence for 16 years after he retired from Caterpillar. He was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.

Comments

Harlan Hobbs 2 years, 3 months ago

Ah yes! The Kelley brothers. What a great combination.

Although I was only 5 years old when they won a National Championship with Phog, Clyde, et. al., they all were household names in our family.

Thank you for all the wonderful memories, and may his family find peace and comfort as the Jayhawk Nation joins them in their sorrow. The great thing about memories is that they last forever.

Makes me think about you too, Mick, at a time like this. What a legacy you have to enjoy.

Mick Allen 2 years, 3 months ago

Al and Dean, fine players and fine people. I'm friends with Dean's son Alan, who is a dentist here in Larry. Thanks Harlan.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 3 months ago

Mick, what happened to Dean? Couldn't help but notice how young he died.

Wasn't sure if this is the appropriate venue so will understand if you feel that way.

Kenneth Johnson 2 years, 2 months ago

When I was ten years old in 1951, my Dad and I drove from western Kansas to Lawrence to see the University of Kansas Jayhawks play. I was becoming a fan then, listening to most of their games on radio --TV didn’t reach out that far then, and newspaper coverage was slim, to say the least. The Jayhawks played in Hoch Auditorium, and its small capacity was overflowing -- with people and excitement. Al Kelley's brother Dean Kelley and big Clyde Lovellette and were the stars that night as they won, on their way to a 16-8 record. The next year the Jayhawks won the NCAA national championship and went on to the Olympics! I was hooked forever as a KU basketball junkie.

Al was just a freshman that year, but freshman weren't allowed then to play on the varsity. But the next year, he joined the team which won the 1952 national championship. In his first season with the Caterpillars in 1954, Kelley helped lead the team to the AAU national title and the 1954 World Basketball Championship in Brazil. While he wasn't on the 1952 Olympic team, he was on the 1960 Olympic team which won a gold medal. And, to put icing on the cake, he was enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

What a fantastic career, and what a great person he was.

Kenn Johnson (KU '70 MS) Author of Kansas University Basketball Legends, 2013, and More University of Kansas Basketball Legends, 2014, both published by The History Press.

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