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Former NBA champ and St. John's star LeRoy Ellis dies at 72

In this Feb. 13, 1976, file photo, Houston Rockets' Kevin Kunnert (20) knocks the ball away from Philadelphia 76ers' LeRoy Ellis (25) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy, File

(AP) LeRoy Ellis, who played 14 years in the NBA after a standout career at St. John's, had died of prostate cancer. He was 72.

St. John's announced on Sunday that Ellis died Saturday in Portland, Ore., after a long battle with cancer.

Ellis was a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn, and played at St. John's from 1959-62. He still holds the school single-season record for rebounding with an average of 16.5 in his junior year, and the record for most rebounds in a game with 30 against NYU on Dec. 30, 1961.

"For a big guy, he was awfully quick. You can never catch him," St. John's Hall of Fame coach Lou Carnesecca said. "He had a soft touch and was a good rebounder. He was a quiet guy, you never knew he was around. But when he was on the court, you always knew."

He was drafted sixth overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1962.

Ellis appeared in 1,048 NBA games with the Lakers, Baltimore, Portland and Philadelphia. He posted career averages of 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds, and was a member of Los Angeles' 1972 championship team.

He was a member of the Portland Trail Blazers in their first season in 1970-71 and led the team in rebounds (12.3) and ranked third in scoring (15.9). It was his only season the Portland.

"LeRoy Ellis was a very important member of the first Trail Blazers team and was a very high-class individual," said Trail Blazers Founder and President Emeritus Harry Glickman. "We extend our deepest sympathy to his family."