Duquesne Honors Basketball Pioneer Cooper With Tournament

On September 24, 2009, in Community, History, Race, by Black Fives Foundation

Duquesne honors Chuck Cooper, among first blacks in NBA, by staging inaugural Chuck Cooper Classic, a hoops doubleheader featuring HBCU teams. How cool is that?

Duquesne University in Pittsburgh is going to make history now.  Major kudos to them for really getting it right!

As reported by by Jack Bogaczyk in his thorough write up for the Charleston (W. Va.) Daily Mail:

West Virginia State’s connection to the first black player drafted in NBA history has gained the Yellow Jackets a game in a Division I setting.

Chuck Cooper

Chuck Cooper.

Coach Bryan Poore’s 2009-10 team will play a West Virginia Conference game against Davis & Elkins in the inaugural Chuck Cooper Classic, a doubleheader scheduled Dec. 5 at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh.

The host Dukes, coached by Fairmont native Ron Everhart, face Savannah State in the other Cooper Classic game. Times for the Cooper Classic games have not been set.

Poore said West Virginia State will receive a $10,000 guarantee, plus a $5,000 scholarship in Cooper’s name from Duquesne, as well as hotel expenses. D&E is getting a $5,000 guarantee.

The State-D&E game was originally set at Fleming Hall on the Institute campus. A return game in Elkins is scheduled Feb. 18.

“We’d like to make this an annual event, and we were looking to bring in some of the traditionally black colleges to play because we felt it was fitting, and we started with West Virginia State,” said Dave Saba, Duquesne’s associate athletic director for media relations. “It was tough finding teams, with the (financial) guarantees being what they are today.

“West Virginia State and Davis & Elkins were gracious enough to move a conference game up here, and having State in the first one is really appropriate, considering the tie-in with Chuck Cooper.”

Savannah State is a traditionally black college with a Division I program.

Cooper, a Pittsburgh native, starred at Westinghouse High and headed for West Virginia State in 1944.

He played one semester for the Yellow Jackets before leaving school to enter the U.S. Navy during the latter stages of World War II.

After the war, Cooper returned home and enrolled at Duquesne under the GI Bill.

In 1950, the 6-foot-4 Cooper led the Dukes (23-6) to a season-long national ranking and the NIT, where they lost to eventual NIT (and NCAA) champ CCNY in the semifinals.

Cooper was a consensus All-America second team pick that season. He played briefly for the Harlem Globetrotters, and on April 25, 1950, he became the first black player picked in the NBA Draft.

“I don’t give a damn if he’s striped, plaid or polka-dot, Boston takes Charles Cooper of Duquesne,” was how Boston Celtics owner Walter Brown made the selection. Cooper was the 13th player selected, and No. 2 in the second round.

Cooper, who played six NBA seasons, died in 1984 at age 57.

The ninth-round pick in 1950 by the Washington Capitols was Earl Lloyd of West Virginia State – one round after Morris Harvey guard George King was selected by the Chicago Stags. The 6-5 Lloyd would add to State’s hoops history by becoming the first black to play in an NBA game on Oct. 31, 1950.

Cooper’s Celtics didn’t open the 1950-51 season until the next night. Lloyd is enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, in Springfield, Mass.

“Duquesne contacted us and said they’d try to find us a Division II opponent,” Poore said. “They told us the date and we thought about moving the D&E game to another, but then we asked just about playing the game up there. D&E was OK with it, and now they don’t have to play at the Pitt (Fleming Hall).

“It’s a great event for us to be in. I’ve talked to Earl Lloyd about it, and he is going to try and come up (from his home in Tennessee) to Pittsburgh for it. With Chuck Cooper having played here, anything we can do that ties us to our history here at State is important.”

An additional wonderful article by Stephen Orbanek for the Hartford Examiner explains in more detail why the Chuck Cooper Classic is such a fitting tribute.

It sure seems to me that other colleges or the N.B.A. could easily stage similar classics.  Hey, for that matter, why couldn’t the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame do it?  Nah, that’s too much to ask — it seems they can’t even figure out who to induct in the first place.

Anyway, I’m going to try my best to attend the inaugural Chuck Cooper Classic!

7 Responses to Duquesne Honors Basketball Pioneer Cooper With Tournament

  1. Kent says:

    Oh, I agree about the Hall of Fame Game for the fisrt black player drafted into the NBA…Earl Lloyd, the first black player to play in an NBA game, he’s from right here in Alexandria, Virginia, went to Parker Gray now known as T. C. Williams, home of Remember The Titans, the movie…

    Oh, lol, thank you Mr. Walter Brown : )

    Great find Claude!

  2. Keith Ellis says:

    Fine article excerpt, except it mistakenly makes Earl Lloyd a Hall of Famer. Another fitting attendee for a Chuck Cooper Night would be Chuck Harmon, the last player Boston cut from the same training camp rookie Cooper participated in. Later that season Mr Harmon became one of pro basketball’s (if not THE) first Afro-Americans to coach an integrated squad.

    Charlie Harmon of course played with and knew the DeJernetts who were amongst the first US-born black basketball players to lead integrated championship clubs in nationally-renowned post-season playoffs, before the pro & college games got their acts together.

  3. Keith, thanks. But actually Earl Lloyd is definitely enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

  4. Keith Ellis says:

    Correct, Claude — the NBA’s eventual johnny-come-lately integration in 1950 via Lloyd’s playing, SweetWater’s signing, and Chuck Cooper’s being drafted is enshrined in Naismith. Yet normally we consider a Player or Coach or Contributor to be a Hall of Famer when he or she is inducted, as Michael Jordan was recently.

  5. Keith Ellis says:

    Great stuff, Claude. Next time I’ll know better than to consult the BasketBall-Reference site which purports to highlight HoFers — http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/l/lloydea01.html

    Somehow Earl Lloyd skipped BasketBall Reference’s — & my — radar. Must be because he entered as a Contributor rather than Player. Good for him! Hope still reigns for SweetWater, Isaacs, & all the rest.

  6. Keith Ellis says:

    Claude, upon further investigation we see Tarzan Cooper is also enshrined at Naismith as a Contributor rather than Player. What could be up with that? Not to complain; anything’s better than nothing!

  7. You mean Earl Lloyd wasn’t inducted in 2003 in the same enshrinement class as James Worthy and Robert Parish? Somebody better tell the Hall of Fame to remove Lloyd’s profile from their website!

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