Photoshop Phriday: Cazzie Russell
Last Friday’s post about Fritz Crisler mentioned the construction of Crisler Arena (now Crisler Center) that took place during his tenure as athletic director. While Crisler may have overseen the construction, it never would have been built without Cazzie Russell. Before Crisler was built the basketball team played on a raised floor in the Yost Field House where the hockey team plays. Russell was a star on the Michigan basketball team from 1964-66 and helped revitalize a program that managed just 17 wins total from 1959-62. Russell helped guide the Wolverines to three consecutive Big 10 titles and back to back Final Fours in 1964 and ’65. In 1965 Michigan lost to eventual champion UCLA, who was just starting a dominant 12 year run under John Wooden.
A two-time All-American, Cazzie set a new single season scoring record each of the three years he played at Michigan. His career scoring average of 27.1 points per game remains a Michigan record and in 1966 he was the consensus top college basketball player of the year, averaging 30.8 points per game. Unsurprisingly Russell was drafted 1st overall in the 1966 NBA draft and he had a 12 year career with the Knicks, Warriors, Lakers, and Bulls. A display at the renovated Crisler Center honors Russell’s achievements and “The House That Cazzie Built”; among other things it teaches fans about his love of six seed soda bread (Photo courtesy of downstream.com).