About two years ago, I became friends on Facebook with Ohio State’s all-time leading scorer, Dennis Hopson. We chatted several times via the Internet, because I was a big fan of his and I went to a lot of Buckeye basketball games at St. John Arena during his career while I attended high school.
Shortly after one of my chats with Hopson, I realized that his No. 32 should hang from the rafters at the Schottenstein Center.
Now there’s a strong push to get Hopson’s number retired on several fronts.
But it has dawned on me that there was another No. 32 that played for Ohio State who I also watched as a youth, and he’s just as deserving to be honored.
His name is Herbert L. Williams.
Herb Williams, a 6'11", 242-pound center from Marion-Franklin High School on Columbus’ south side, was a four-year starter at Ohio State and played in 114 games from 1977-81. He holds career averages of 17.6 and 9.7 rebounds per contest while shooting 49.9 percent from the field.
Playing for head coach Eldon Miller, Williams is the only player in Buckeye history to score more than 2,000 points and pull down more than 1,000 rebounds. He leads in career field goals made with 834.
Williams is second all-time in Ohio State history in points (2,011), as he surpassed Jerry Lucas towards the end of the 1980-81 season. Williams is also second all-time in rebounds (1,011), blocked shots (328) and double-doubles (59).
It should also be noted, though, that the NCAA has only been compiling statistics for assists since 1984 and blocked shots and steals since 1986. So, his double-doubles are points and rebounds alone.
Arguably Williams’ finest season was his junior year when he was tabbed an All-Big Ten performer and was named as a third-team All-American by the Associated Press after averaging 17.6 and 9.1 rebounds per game. That season, the Buckeyes went 21-8 and advanced to the NCAA West Regional Semifinals before losing to UCLA, 72-68.
But his best season, at least statistically, was his sophomore year when he averaged 20.0 points and 10.5 boards per outing.
Williams was a first-round selection and 14th pick overall by the Indiana Pacers in the 1981 NBA Draft. He went on to play 18 seasons in the Association, playing for the Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks. Currently, Williams is an assistant coach under Mike D’Antoni for the Knickerbockers.
During his four years at Ohio State from 1983-87, Hopson averaged 16.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, though he didn’t crack the starting lineup on a regular basis until his sophomore season.
Hopson, a 6'5" swingman from Bowsher High School in Toledo, played for three seasons under head coach Eldon Miller and averaged 5.3 points in 18.7 minutes per game during his freshman year at Ohio State, seeing action in all 29 games and starting nine for the Buckeyes who went 15-14 on the year.
During his sophomore campaign, Hopson earned more playing time and started 21 of the 30 games. He averaged 9.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in 25.2 minutes of action with Ohio State, winning 20 of their 30 contests that season.
As a junior, Hopson averaged 20.9 points and 5.8 rebounds as Ohio State concluded the season with a 19-14 overall record and held sole possession of seventh place in the Big Ten with an 8-10 mark, which was the worst finish in the conference under Miller since 1976-77, his first year at the helm.
But, there were two major changes before Hopson’s senior season.
First, Ohio State lured away Boston College’s Gary Williams to become the Buckeyes’ next head coach after Miller was fired. Williams’ style of play featured full-court, up-tempo basketball which greatly benefited Hopson. The second major change was the NCAA implementing the three-point shot for the 1986-87 season.
Under new coach Williams, Hopson was the nation’s second-leading scorer at 29 points, plus he averaged 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. During one stretch that season, Hopson scored 30 or more points in five consecutive games, including 36 against Iowa and 35 against Purdue.
The Buckeyes finished the season with a 20-13 record and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament. As a ninth seed, Ohio State defeated eighth seed Kentucky, 91-77, in the first round at The Omni in Atlanta as Hopson scored a team-high 32 points.
Unfortunately, the Scarlet and Gray lost to top-seeded Georgetown in the second round, 82-79, after leading by 10 at halftime. Hopson led the Bucks’ with 20 points in that game.
Hopson was named the 1987 United Press International Big Ten Player of the Year and was accorded a spot on The Sporting News’ All-America team after the season. His 29 points per game average that year is third all time behind Robin Freeman’s 32.9 points per game in 1956 and Gary Bradds’ 30.6 points per game average in 1964.
Hopson was the third overall selection in the 1987 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets and played five seasons in the league with the Nets, Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings before playing overseas for several more seasons. After finishing his degree at Ohio State in 2006, Hopson is an assistant basketball coach at Bowling Green.
Currently, there are four banners hanging from the rafters at Value City Arena with retired numbers that include: No. 5 for John Havlicek, No. 11 for Jerry Lucas, No. 22 for Jim Jackson and No. 35 for Gary Bradds.
As for the four above, Lucas, Jackson and Bradds were consensus All-Americans who were also named National Player of the Year. And although he didn’t make every list in 1962, Havlicek was a first-team All-American selection on both the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) and United Press International (UPI) squads.
Evan Turner, who was a consensus All-American and National Player of the Year in 2010, will likely see his name hanging from the rafters at Value City Arena in the near future.
But what about Hopson?
While there’s a strong push to get his number retired, if honoring Hopson, you also have to include Williams. No one will ever score 2,000 points or snare 1,000 rebounds at Ohio State ever again, yet Williams did both.
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