Message from the Chancellor: Fallen Eagle Alumnus Sam Jones, '57

Posted December 31, 2021, 3:49PM

December 31, 2021

Dear NCCU Community:

As we end 2021, we do so with one of North Carolina Central University (NCCU)’s esteemed Eagle alumni members becoming a Fallen Eagle.

It is with profound sadness that I share news that alumnus and NBA Hall of Famer Sam Jones, ’57, passed away on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. Alumnus Jones is heralded as one of the greatest NBA players of all-time, having played at NCCU from 1951-54 and 1956-57. He remains NCCU’s second-leading career scorer with 1,745 points in four seasons under head coaches John McLendon and Floyd Brown. He scored 668 field goals and 409 free throws, averaging 17.8 points per contest in 98 career collegiate games.  

Born on June 24, 1933, in Wilmington, North Carolina, and a high school graduate of Laurinburg (N.C.) Institute, Alumnus Jones was chosen by the Boston Celtics with the eighth overall pick in the first round of the 1957 NBA Draft after graduating from NCCU that same year.

His 12-year career with the Celtics included 10 NBA Championships, five All-Star Game appearances and three selections to the All-NBA Second Team. Nicknamed "Mr. Clutch,” Alumnus Jones amassed 15,411 points, an average of 17.7 points per game, 4,305 rebounds and 2,209 assists in 871 contests. 

Alumnus Jones was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the NCCU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1984, as well as the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1969, the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1962, and the CIAA Hall of Fame in 1981. He was selected to the NBA 25th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1970, and was later named among the top 50 players in NBA history as a member of the 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996, and the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in October 2021. 

In March 2015, prior to the unveiling of Alumnus Jones’s jersey hanging from the rafters of McDougald-McLendon Arena, where he played more than 50 years ago, then North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory presented Alumnus Jones with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, among the most prestigious awards conferred by the governor.  

Arrangements for Alumnus Jones are forthcoming. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

In Truth and Service,

Johnson O. Akinleye, Ph.D., Chancellor

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