Clifton McNeely

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Clifton McNeely
Personal information
Born(1919-06-22)June 22, 1919
Greenwood, Texas
DiedDecember 26, 2003(2003-12-26) (aged 84)
Irving, Texas
Career information
High schoolSlidell (Slidell, Texas)
CollegeTexas Wesleyan (1941–1942, 1946–1947)
BAA draft1947 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall
Selected by the Pittsburgh Ironmen
Coaching career1947–1960
Career history
As coach:
1947–1960Pampa HS
Career highlights and awards

Clifton McNeely (June 22, 1919 – December 26, 2003) was an American basketball player and coach.[1] 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.

Early life[edit]

Clifton McNeely was born in Greenwood, Texas to Albert McNeely and Fannie Lee Clifton.[1] He attended Slidell High School in Slidell, Texas, and graduated in 1937.[2]

College and military career[edit]

McNeely attended Texas Wesleyan University, where he studied Administrative Education.[3] 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,[4] and led his team to a school-best 30–4 record.[5]

McNeely completed his master's degree after returning to the university in 1953.[3]

BAA draft[edit]

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.[6] 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 play basketball professionally. The Pittsburgh Ironmen ended up folding before the start of the 1947–48 season.

Coaching career[edit]

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.[6] McNeely coached at the school for thirteen years and won four state championships while leading the team to a 320–43 record.[4] 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.[6] After his coaching retirement in 1960,[6] the school's gymnasium was renamed McNeely Fieldhouse in his honor.[1]

Later life and death[edit]

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.[1]

McNeely died December 26, 2003, at the age of 84.[1]

Personal life[edit]

McNeely married Peggy Jean Gallagher on June 14, 1947. The couple had three children: twin sons Phil and Mike, and daughter Sheryl.[1] His two sons would both go on to become high school basketball coaches.[6]

McNeely was inducted into the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame, the Slidell ISD Hall of Fame, the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame and the Texas Wesleyan University Hall of Fame.[1][2][7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Clifton McNeely Obituary. December 29, 2003. Retrieved on April 14, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Hall of Fame - Slidell ISD Retrieved on June 2, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "McNeely's Return to Home at Pampa". Wise County Messenger. July 30, 1953. p. 10 – via
  4. ^ a b Wellnicki, Galen. "McNeely: An educator and a motivator" Amarillo Globe-News. February 28, 1999. Retrieved on June 1, 2017.
  5. ^ "Wanamaker, Blake Named All-American". March 23, 2011. Retrieved on June 1, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e Sherrington, Kevin. "Clifton McNeely, first-ever NBA Draft selection, took his talents elsewhere". SportsDay. June 20, 2015. Retrieved on June 2, 2017.
  7. ^ Texas Wesleyan University Rams Athletics - Hall of Fame Retrieved on June 1, 2017.