June 22, 1919|
|Died||December 26, 2003
|High school||Slidell (Slidell, Texas)|
|College||Texas Wesleyan (1941–1942, 1946–1947)|
|BAA draft||1947 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall|
|Selected by the Pittsburgh Ironmen|
|Career highlights and awards|
Clifton McNeely (June 22, 1919 – December 26, 2003) was an American basketball player and coach. The first pick of the inaugural 1947 BAA draft, McNeely was the first player ever drafted in the National Basketball Association. However, he never played basketball professionally, instead choosing to coach high school basketball.
College and military career
McNeely attended Texas Wesleyan University, where he studied Administrative Education. After playing basketball at the university for the 1941–42 season, McNeely served with the United States Army Air Corps in World War II. He returned to Texas Wesleyan for the 1946–47 season and earned All-American honors after leading the NAIA in scoring, and led his team to a school-best 30–4 record.
McNeely completed his master's degree after returning to the university in 1953.
McNeely was selected with the first pick of the inaugural 1947 BAA draft by the Pittsburgh Ironmen, becoming the first player ever drafted in the National Basketball Association. The Ironmen had earned the first pick in the draft after attaining a 14–45 record in the first season of the Basketball Association of America. However, McNeely was not interested in signing with the team, and ultimately never played a game of professional basketball. McNeely and Gene Melchiorre of the 1951 NBA draft are the only two number-one draft picks in NBA history to never played basketball professionally. The Pittsburgh Ironmen ended up folding before the start of the 1947–48 season.
After working for Phillips 66 in Bartlesville, Oklahoma for four months in 1947, McNeely returned to Texas and became the head basketball coach at Pampa High School in Pampa, Texas. McNeely coached at the school for thirteen years and won four state championships while leading the team to a 320–43 record. He was offered coaching positions at Texas universities including University of Texas at Austin, Rice University and University of Texas at El Paso, but elected to stay at Pampa. After his coaching retirement in 1960, the school's gymnasium was renamed McNeely Fieldhouse in his honor.
Later life and death
McNeely worked in school administration following his retirement from coaching. He served as an assistant principal at Castleberry High School, principal at Bridgeport High School and Denton High School, and administrator at Irving Independent School District before retiring in 1985.
McNeely died December 26, 2003, at the age of 84.
McNeely married Peggy Jean Gallagher on June 14, 1947. The couple had three children: twin sons Phil and Mike, and daughter Sheryl. His two sons would both go on to become high school basketball coaches.
- Obituary: Clifton McNeely. amarillo.com. December 29, 2003. Retrieved on June 1, 2017.
- Hall of Fame - Slidell ISD slidellisd.net. Retrieved on June 2, 2017.
- "McNeely's Return to Home at Pampa". Wise County Messenger. July 30, 1953. p. 10 – via Newspapers.com.
- Wellnicki, Galen. "McNeely: An educator and a motivator" Amarillo Globe-News. February 28, 1999. Retrieved on June 1, 2017.
- "Wanamaker, Blake Named All-American". ramsports.net. March 23, 2011. Retrieved on June 1, 2017.
- Sherrington, Kevin. "Clifton McNeely, first-ever NBA Draft selection, took his talents elsewhere". SportsDay. June 20, 2015. Retrieved on June 2, 2017.
- Texas Wesleyan University Rams Athletics - Hall of Fame ramsports.net. Retrieved on June 1, 2017.