WINSTON-SALEM, NC - One of the best athletes in Winston-Salem State University history passed away on Monday.
The Newark, New Jersey native, Cleo Hill, passed away after a brief stint in hospice care.
Cleo Hill was the first superstar for Hall of Fame basketball coach Clarence "Big House" Gaines at Winston-Salem State (known then as Winston-Salem Teacher's College), where he averaged 25.4 points in his college career, helping the team claim back-to-back CIAA titles in 1960 & 1961, a feat that the team would not repeat until 2000.
Hill, who graduated from WSSU in 1961, is the second-leading scorer in school history behind Earl "The Pearl" Monroe. Hill scored 2,488 points in his four seasons.
Hill, a 6-1 guard, averaged 25.4 points a game in his career at WSSU, and in 1961 was drafted eighth overall in the first round by the St. Louis Hawks. He later played in the Eastern Basketball League, and then became a successful college coach in Newark, New Jersey at Essex Community College. Hill, who went on to coach 24 seasons and win 489 games at Essex Community College.
Cleo Hill is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in school history and is widely considered as one of the greats to play collegiate basketball. For his efforts, Hill earned All-CIAA honors twice (1960, 1961). He also earned NAIA First Team All-American honors in 1961. He went on to become inducted into the CIAA Hall of Fame (1994).
Hill was drafted in the first round of the National Basketball Association (NBA) by the St. Louis Hawks in 1961. He was profiled in a segment of the ESPN Documentary Black Magic, which told the story of African Americans and basketball.