CHICAGO (CBS) -- Jerry Harkness, the famed Loyola Ramblers captain and two-time All-American who lead the team to its 1963 championship, has died.
Loyola confirmed his passing Tuesday morning. He was 81.
"All of us at Loyola have heavy hearts today," said Drew Valentine, Loyola men's basketball coach. "Jerry was a true trail blazer not only in basketball, but in so many different walks of life, and the impact he made was immeasurable."
"We are deeply saddened to have lost not only one of Loyola's all-time great players, but also one of its all-time great human beings. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, former teammates and countless friends," said Steve Watson, Loyola Director of Athletics.
According to Loyola, Harkness currently ranks sixth in program history with 1,749 points and in the Ramblers' national championship season in 1962-63, provided 21.4 points per game and shot 50.4 percent (244-for-484) from the floor as high-scoring Loyola posted a 29-2 overall record.
Harkness is also remembered in the legendary "Game of Change." It's when Loyola faced Mississippi State in the NCAA Regional Semifinals. Harkness was one of four Black starters on Loyola's team. At the time, state laws banned Mississippi State from playing integrated teams, Loyola snuck out of town to play the game. Before the game Harkness and Mississippi State captain Joe Dan Gold shook hands at center court and that image would become iconic.
Harkness was drafted by the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1963 NBA Draft. He played one season there before playing two years with the Indiana Pacers in the ABA. According to Loyola "his buzzer-beating, 92-foot shot during the 1967-68 season lifted the Pacers to a victory and to this day it remains the longest shot ever made in a professional basketball game in the United States."
After his basketball career, Harkness went on to a successful career in business and broadcasting. He was also the first African-American salesman for Quaker Oats, Harkness also worked for the United Way of Greater Indianapolis and ran an athletic shoe franchise. He also had a stint as a sportscaster for WLWI in Indianapolis.
"As soon as I learned the story of the 1963 Ramblers basketball team, Jerry became one of my role models," said current Loyola guard and graduate student Lucas Williamson. "He will be deeply missed and forever remembered as one of the best to wear a Loyola jersey."
Harkness is survived by his wife, Sarah, and children, Jerald and Julie. Funeral arrangements are pending.
According to Loyola, fans will get a chance to learn more about Harkness' legacy in the upcoming documentary "The Loyola Project."
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