University of Michigan Basketball
1964, 1965, 1966, Guard
Chicago Carver High School's Cazzie Russell ushered in a new era in Michigan basketball. At 6-6, 218 pounds and possessed of great hands and a fine shooting touch, Russell could play any position on the court. Scoring 30 points in his debut game against Ball State and a school record 670 for the season, Russell teamed with fellow All-American Bill Buntin to bring Michigan its first Big Ten title since 1948 and a third place finish in the NCAA Tournament. Russell would lead the Wolverines to two more conference crowns and two NCAA Tournament berths. The 1965 team defeated Princeton and Bill Bradley in the semi-finals with Russell netting 28 points, but lost to UCLA in the finals despite Cazzie turning in another 28 point effort. Though Michigan lost to Kentucky in the regional finals in 1966, Russell was named College Basketball Player of the Year.
Russell rewrote the Wolverine scoring record book. He finished his career with 2,163 points, breaking Bill Buntin's mark by 439 points. He set a new single season scoring record in each of his three seasons. His career 27.1 points per game average is still the top in Michigan history, as is his 30.8 season average in 1966, and his 48 point effort against Northwestern to clinch the 1966 conference title has been equaled only by Rudy Tomjanovich. Cazzie was picked No. 1 in the NBA by the New York Knicks and played twelve seasons with Knicks, San Francisco Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls.
When Russell came to Michigan the Wolverines played their home games on a removable raised floor in Yost Field House. The enthusiasm and fan support generated by Russell led to the construction of Crisler Area - often referred to as "The House That Cazzie Built." Fittingly, Cazzie's fabled No. 33 jersey was retired and raised to the rafters in Crisler in 1989.