Dayton junior Jim Paxson Sr. (31) jumps for a rebound, along with Chris Harris (24),
against Xavier during the 1952-53 season. University of Dayton photo
Former Dayton Daily News sports writer and longtime UD beat writer Bucky Albers called me this evening when he heard about the death of UD great Jim Paxson Sr.
Albers spent some time with Paxson Sr. a few years ago when he was in poor health, and together they prepared an obituary. Bucky sent it to me tonight to help with my story, and it includes some wonderful tidbits I would have had a hard time tracking down in our archives.
The following is Bucky’s story:
Born: December 19, 1932
Birthplace: Pennville, Ind.
Mr. Paxson, who also played in the NBA, was born in Pennville, Ind., but grew up in Springfield and graduated from Springfield Catholic Central High School in 1950. He had not been a particularly good basketball player in high school.
Mr. Paxson remembered seeing only two minutes of varsity action in his junior year. He scored his only basket when he entered a tournament game against Stivers with 10 seconds to play and made a layup at the buzzer. “We only lost by 18.” he said.
In an interview in October, 2008, Mr. Paxson estimated that he averaged about 10 points a game as a 6-3 senior center. “I wasn’t very good with my back to the basket,” he explained.
He was a fast-growing 17-year-old when he was invited to a UD tryout at the suggestion of Billy Hilbert, a Springfield native and UD fan. Hilbert drove him to the tryout at Wright-Patterson AFB, and Mr. Paxson wore a pair of shoes (two sizes too large) borrowed from UD player Tom Frericks.
Three or four days later UD Coach Tom Blackburn offered him a scholarship. The others receiving scholarships were Ray Dieringer, Don Donoher and Larry Pedicord.
Mr. Paxson, who quickly grew to 6-foot-6, averaged 6.2 points as a sophomore in 1951-52 for the only UD team ever to appear in the National Invitation Tournament and the NCAA in the same year. The Flyers had a 28-5 record.
Without graduated stars Don Meineke, Junior Norris, Chuck Grigsby and Pete Boyle, UD slipped to 16-13 in 1952-53. Mr. Paxson averaged 11.6 points and 8.2 rebounds.
On August 6, 1953, shortly before what would have been his senior year at UD, Mr. Paxson was drafted into the Army. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “God had a plan for me.”
While waiting for his orders at boot camp, he was marching in a parade. An officer who saw Mr. Paxson told someone to ask the tall soldier if he played basketball. Thanks to his hoops background, he was assigned to play on the service team.
“Instead of going to Germany and serving as an infantryman behind a tank, I’m lollygagging around on a basketball court,” he said. “Right before Christmas I get orders to report to Wright-Patterson AFB. I think Blackburn had something to do with it.”
Mr. Paxson spent two weeks working out with the Armed Services basketball team at Wright-Pat and then toured the United States with the team, which played in the Pan American Games. He was discharged from the Army in June of 1955. Returning to UD, he averaged 15.5 points and 9.4 rebounds for the 1955-56 Flyer team, which had a 25-4 record, was runner-up in the NIT and finished third in the Associated Press national poll.
A first-round draft choice of the Minneapolis Lakers, Mr. Paxson played for the Lakers in 1956-57 and the Cincinnati Royals in 1957-58 before retiring to help manage his father-in-law’s insurance business.