Bill Garrett (basketball)

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William Leon Garrett (April 4, 1929 – August 7, 1974) was a basketball player and coach and a college administrator.

Garrett was born in Shelbyville, Indiana and played basketball at Shelbyville High School. He led Shelbyville to the Indiana state championship in 1947 and was named Indiana Mr. Basketball. He then went to Indiana University, where he played for head coach Branch McCracken. Garrett was the first African-American to play on the IU basketball team and also the first to regularly start on a Big Ten team. He was named an All-American in 1951, his senior season. He was selected by the Boston Celtics in the second round of the NBA draft, becoming the third black player ever drafted by an NBA team.

Shortly thereafter, Garrett was called into military duty. After two years in the U.S. Army, Garrett returned home to find that he had been cut from the Celtics, and he began playing for the Harlem Globetrotters. Following his stint with the Globetrotters, he began teaching and coaching basketball at Wood High School in Indianapolis. In 1957, he became head coach at Crispus Attucks High, which had won state championships in 1955 and 1956, led by Oscar Robertson. Garrett led Attucks to another state title in 1959. He is the only Indiana Mr. Basketball to win state championships both as a player and as a coach.

Garrett was assistant dean for student services at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis at the time of his death from a heart attack, at the age of 45. He is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.

Garrett was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1974.


  • Tom Graham and Rachel Cody Graham, Getting Open: The Unknown Story of Bill Garrett and the Integration of College Basketball, New York: Atria Books, 2006. ISBN 0-7434-7903-3
  • Hetty Gray, Net Prophet: The Bill Garrett Story, Fairland, Indiana: Sugar Creek Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-9712571-0-8

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