UMass to immortalize hoops stars with bronze statues

  • University of Massachusetts star Marcus Camby, pictured here after a win over Stanford in the second round NCAA tournament game in 1996. UMass will recognize Camby and three other members of the men’s basketball program with individual bronze statues later this year. AP file

  • Former UMass basketball coach John Calipari, center, receives a copy of a banner honoring him in 2016. UMass will recognize Calipari and three other members of the men’s basketball program with individual bronze statues later this year. Gazette file photo

  • Basketball Hall of Famer Julius “Dr. J” Erving stands near a sculpture of himself after the Philadelphia 76ers unveiled it at the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex in Camden, N.J., in 2018. UMass will recognize Erving and three other members of the men’s basketball program with individual bronze statues later this year. The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

Staff Writer
Published: 6/15/2021 9:12:07 PM

AMHERST — Statues of famous sports stars outside arenas and stadiums have become a way to immortalize their contributions to their teams.

For the first time later this summer, the University of Massachusetts will recognize individuals in bronze likenesses on the Amherst campus, with four men’s basketball representatives who brought national attention to the program in the 1970s and the ’90s.

Two players, Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Marcus Camby, and two coaches, Jack Leaman and John Calipari, will have their statues unveiled on the plaza at the north entrance to the Mullins Center on Sept. 11, the same day the UMass football team plays at McGuirk Alumni Stadium against Boston College.

The ceremony will come a day after the induction to the UMass Athletics Hall of Fame of the 1995-96 men’s basketball team, coached by Calipari and starring Camby. That team reached the Final Four during the March Madness tournament, though that appearance was later vacated by NCAA officials who determined that Camby had accepted improper gifts from an agent.

Ryan Bamford, director of athletics, said in a statement that the four men are being honored because they are responsible for some of the most memorable moments in the program’s history

“These four pillars of our men’s basketball program put Massachusetts Basketball on the map during their time in Amherst,” Bamford said.

The placement of the statues will make them visible to pedestrians and vehicles along Commonwealth Avenue.

Aside from the campus Hall of Fame, there are few ways famed sports figures are recognized publicly at UMass, though the lacrosse team plays at Garber Field, named after Dick Garber, the team’s coach from 1954 to 1990. A plaque with his image is next to the field.

Other sculptures on campus are dedicated to Metawampe, the Nonotuck Native American who sold land north of Mount Toby to Hadley settlers, an anonymous Minuteman soldier and an anonymous young boy.

All four basketball icons have already been inducted into the UMass Athletics Hall of Fame.

Camby, who played three seasons at UMass, was inducted in 2010. He left as the school’s all-time leading shot blocker in a career and for a single season, and was the highest ever NBA draft pick, taken second overall by the Toronto Raptors in 1996.

Calipari, who coached at UMass from 1988 to 1996, was inducted in 2004. Now coaching at the University of Kentucky, he was inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield in 2015.

Erving, who played two seasons for UMass from 1969 to 1971, was inducted in 1980. He set UMass records in scoring and rebounding in just two seasons, averaging 26.3 points and 20.2 rebounds per game.

Leaman, head coach from 1966 to 1979 and again from 1986 to 1987, was inducted in 1998. He is the winningest coach at UMass.

Details for the dedication and unveiling, which will be held in conjunction with UMass’ Hall of Fame Weekend in September, will be announced later. The UMass Athletics George “Trigger” Burke Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be Sept. 10 at 6 p.m.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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