“Younger, who looks like a misplaced midget on a team of giants, dropped in his corner shot so many times that it became monotonous.”
—The Coshocton Tribune, 1946

Eddie Younger

Eddie ‘The Eel’ Younger.

Teams: Harlem Globetrotters, New York Renaissance, Dayton Rens, Scranton Miners American Basketball League), Mohawk Redskins (New York State Professional Basketball League), Westchester Whirls
Home: Harlem, New York City
Born: 1923
Died: 1985

Eddie “The Eel” Younger was a sensational 5′-5″, 140 lbs. ball-handling wizard who played point guard for several professional teams during the 1940s and was one of the finest basketball players of his time.

Exceptionally fast and quick with handles to match, he was always the smallest player on the court and often referred to as a “midget speed boy” or a “half pint hot-shot.” Younger earned the nickname “Rabbit” as well as “The Eel” for his electrifying elusiveness and court savvy.

He led Benjamin Franklin High School to the New York City high school basketball championship title in 1940. “Eddie Younger’s set shot in one minute and three seconds of the three-minute sudden-death period broke a 30-all tie and game Benjamin Franklin High a 32-30 victory over James Madison in the final-round play-off for the city PSAL basketball championship at Madison Square Garden yesterday,” wrote the New York Times.[1] One of his Franklin teammates was future Hall of Fame member Bobby Wanzer, whom Younger outscored eight points to two.

After graduating from Franklin, Younger attended Long Island University and played varsity basketball for the Blackbirds under coaches Claire Bee, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, and George “Red” Wolfe.

When he joined the New York Renaissance in 1946, Younger was “reputed to be the fastest man on the hardwood since the famous ‘Fat’ Jenkins retired.”[2] During the mid- and late-1940s, he took the court with the Rens to lead an amazing collection of stars such as future NBA player Hank DeZonie, future Hall of Fame member William “Pop” Gates, future NBA player and Hall of Fame member Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, future New York City Basketball Hall of Fame member Clarence “Puggy” Bell, Roscoe “Duke” Cumberland, and William “Dolly” King.

Younger came from a family of ballers. His father, Clarence D. Younger, played basketball with the old Hudson Guild, which was an early settlement house in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan when that portion of the city was predominantly black. The elder Younger also coached the hoops squad of the Salem-Crescent Athletic Club, which was organized under the umbrella of Rev. Fredrick Cullen’s Salem Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church. Cullen was the foster-father of gifted Harlem Renaissance poet Countée Cullen. For years he was the organization’s treasurer and was, as described by famed sportswriter Alvin Moses, “one of Black Manhattan’s favorite sons.”[3]

Eddie’s older brother, Clarence, Jr., was a star at DeWitt Clinton High School before playing basketball at Clark University in Atlanta. Younger’s younger brother Carl, who is still alive and residing in Harlem, was said to be better than his older brothers though he never took up organized basketball.

eddie-younger-headline

A headline from 1946 in the Coshocton Ohio) Tribune.

Despite his size, Younger routinely made headlines. During one game in 1946 while barnstorming with the New York Rens in Ohio, Younger scored 22 points against the burly Coshocton Athletic Club, made up of towering former Ohio State stars. The game was back and forth until “Younger, who looks like a misplaced midget on a team of giants, dropped in his corner shot so many times that it became monotonous,” wrote a reporter for the local Coshocton Tribune, a white newspaper. The Rens, he wrote, “began to pull away and the Caucasian race was never quite able to overcome the lead after halftime.”[4]

Younger also played in the 1948 World Championship of Professional Basketball with the Renaissance, the final event of that epic tournament series, and almost defeated the Minneapolis Lakers, losing 75-71 in the final against a team that featured future Hall of Fame members George Mikan and Jim Pollard.

New York Rens, 1948

The New York Rens lineup for the 1948 World Pro Basketball Tournament. Standing, L to R: William “Dolly” King, George Crowe, Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton, Jim Usry, William “Pop” Gates, Tom Sealy, Duke Cumberland, Sonny Woods, Eddie Younger.

Later he signed with the Scranton (Pa.) Miners of the American Basketball League. On the Miners his teammates were “Pop” Gates, “Dolly” King, former New York Knicks player Hank Rosenstein under head coach Red Sarachek, a legendary figure who mentored future coaching legends Red Holzman of the Knicks and Lou Carnesecca of St. John’s University.

“I loved every minute of it and made great, great friends – friends that I maintain to this day,” recalled Younger’s teammate on the Miners, Nat Militzok, a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. “I got a call once a week from Eddie Younger.”[5]

When the entire Miners team moved to the New York State Professional Basketball League as the Mohawk Redskins, with the addition of former Rens player Vic Hanson, Younger set a league record scoring 38 points against the Saratoga Indians in 1949.

The sensational little guard closed out his career with the Westchester Whirls, a unique all-black team whose home games were staged at the County Center in White Plains, New York. Their inaugural game was played on October 20, 1949 against the New York Knickerbockers of the newly formed National Basketball Association. Younger’s teammates on the Whirls included Dolly King and Hank DeZonie as well as Puggy Bell, who was the squad’s player-coach.[6]

Ironically, the County Center is where the Westchester Knicks of the NBA Developmental League (NBDL) play today, only ten minutes from the Knicks’ own practice facility in nearby Greenburgh, New York.

Eddie “The Eel” Younger was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 along with former NBA players Kenny Anderson, Sam Perkins, and Rod Strickland.

After retiring from the game, Younger was for many years the director of the John Hunter Memorial Camp Fund, a fresh-air initiative for underprivileged inner city kids, right up until he died in 1985.


[1] New York Times, 16 March 1940.
[2] Coshocton Tribune, 19 March 1946.
[3] Indianapolis Recorder, 11 March 1944.
[4] Coshocton Tribune, 26 March 1946.
[5] Peterson, Robert W. Cages to Jump Shots: Pro Basketball’s Early Years (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990).
[6] The Bronxville Reporter, 27 October 1949.