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Hal Greer

HUNTINGTON -- While playing basketball at Marshall College, Hal Greer scored 1,377 points and set the career record for field-goal percentages with .545.

But Greer's most accomplished goal was breaking the color barrier in West Virginia collegiate sports.

Greer grew up in Huntington, attending the all-black Douglass High School. By coming to Marshall and playing basketball, and one year of baseball, Greer became the first African American to play for a major college team in the state.

The college, which later became a university, was a traditional southern school, but Greer's success on the court helped ease the transition.

Marshall University Director of Athletic Development Sam Stanley was a friend of Greer's during his playing days, and remembers him as a soft-spoken and friendly man.

During Stanley's freshmen year, he was the manager of Marshall's baseball team, on which Greer, then a sophomore, played his only season. When the team traveled, Stanley said most restaurants wouldn't serve blacks, so he and Greer would find somewhere else to go.

"Hal and I roomed together (on the road), and we'd go to the school's student center and play pingpong," Stanley said.

When he was on the basketball team, Stanley heard stories about hotels and restaurants not wanting to serve him. On at least one trip, the basketball players told a restaurant manager if they didn't serve Greer, they weren't going to eat there either.

Despite the apparent distractions, Greer excelled on the court. Greer helped Marshall win the Mid-American Conference title in 1956, and finish second in 1957-58, despite leading the nation in offense in 1958. Greer also was an All-Conference player in 1957 and 1958, and he became the school's second All-American in 1958.

Greer was drafted by the Syracuse Nationals of the NBA in 1958 and went on to play 15 years in New York and Philadelphia. He averaged 22 points per game in 1967, helping Philadelphia win the NBA championship. He also played in 10 consecutive All-Star games and was the game's most valuable player in 1968.

He scored 21,586 points, currently 24th on the all-time list, and was named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary Team in 1996.

Greer earned a nod into the Naismith Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982, becoming and remaining the only black West Virginia native enshrined in a major sports hall of fame.

Locally, Greer remains a mainstay because of Hal Greer Boulevard, a one-and-a-half mile stretch of 16th Street that runs by Marshall's campus.

Stanley talks with his old pingpong buddy every once in a while, but said Greer prefers to live a private life in Arizona. While Greer may be in Arizona, his legacy in Huntington remains active.

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