NEW YORK (AP) Solly Walker, a St. John’s basketball star in the 1950s and the school’s first black player, has died. He was 85.
He died Friday but no other details were disclosed by the school Tuesday.
In his first season on the varsity, Walker, on Dec. 17, 1951, became the first black player to compete in a basketball game against Kentucky on the Wildcats’ home court. He was injured in that game and spent the remainder of it on the bench after making all but one of his first seven shots.
”He was a good, solid player, a team player,” Hall of Fame St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca said. ”He handled himself so well with the way he was treated at Kentucky. Went on to become a teacher, a principal and a highly respected, highly regarded member of his community.”
St. John’s reached the NCAA championship game that season, the first of two Final Four appearances in the school’s history. He averaged 4.4 points and 3.8 rebounds during a 25-6 season under Hall of Fame coach Frank McGuire.
In 1952-53, the 6-foot-4 swingman helped St. John’s advance to the National Invitation Tournament title game by averaging 7.0 points and 6.0 rebounds. His finest season came as a senior in 1953-54 when he topped the team in scoring (14) and rebounding (12.2).
Walker was drafted by the New York Knicks but chose a career with the New York City Board of Education, eventually becoming a principal at a Manhattan school. In 1993, he was inducted into the St. John’s athletic hall of fame.
Walker was born in 1932 in South Carolina and moved to Brooklyn with his family as a child. He starred at Boys High School in Brooklyn.
A memorial service is scheduled for Monday at Siloam Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn.