Radford, key backup on IU’s undefeated ’76 team and a Pacer, passes away at 64
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Former Indiana star Wayne Radford, a prominent backup on the Hoosiers’ 1976 unbeaten national championship team, has died. He was 64.
Athletic department officials confirmed Radford’s death Sunday with one of his family members, but did not provide any details.
Radford spent his entire career playing for in-state teams — Indianapolis Arlington High School, the Hoosiers and the NBA’s Indiana Pacers. He is best known for scoring 16 points to help spur a 72-67 overtime victory over Michigan that kept Indiana’s perfect record intact at 32-0.
“Wayne was an outstanding student-athlete and a key member of some of our basketball program’s all-time great teams in the 1970s,” athletic director Scott Dolson said in a statement. “He was also one of our most involved and passionate alums for more than four decades, an active Varsity Club member who made an enormous contribution to our department as a member of our Varsity Club National Board of Directors. Wayne did all of that because he loved IU and IU Athletics, and he was committed to making a difference on behalf of our student-athletes.”
Radford first emerged as a high school star by scoring 1,307 points while leading Arlington to its first city title and the only regional championship in school history. The 6-foot-3 guard played well enough to impress Hoosiers coach Bob Knight.
After several key players graduated following the 1974-75 season, Radford found himself in a more pivotal role. While future NBA players Tom Abernethy, Kent Benson, Quinn Buckner, Scott May and Bob Wilkerson started, Radford logged more minutes than any other player off the bench. He averaged 9.2 points on the last men’s team to complete an unbeaten season.
In 1977-78, Radford became a starter and captain, averaging 15.6 points, 4 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He shot 57.9% from the field, was given team MVP honors and finished his college career with a field goal percentage of 55.3%, which still ranks sixth in school history.
The Pacers used a second-round pick, No. 27 overall, to select Radford in the 1978 draft — making him the sixth member of Knight’s first title team to play in the NBA. Radford played 52 games in his only season in the league, averaging 3.9 points off the bench before suffering a career-ending ankle injury.
Radford was honored by the state’s basketball Hall of Fame as part of its 1999 Silver Anniversary team and was a member of the Hall of Fame’s 2009 induction class.
“Our entire program is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Wayne Radford,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said on Twitter. “He embodied everything you would want to see in an IU basketball player. He was a champion in life and on the court.”