Which Wyoming hoopster wore it best? No. 15
LARAMIE -- Do you ever see a number on a Wyoming basketball jersey and think of all the great players to wear it?
Yeah, me too.
In this summer series, I’ll give you my take on which Pokes’ hoopster was the best ever to don each number. The criteria are simple: How did he perform at UW? What kind of impact did he have on the program?
No. 15 - LEON CLARK
Forward, 1963-66, Harvey, Ill.
Résumé in Laramie
* 78 games played at UW
* 19.2 points per game average (fourth in program history)
* Second-team All-WAC in 1963-64
* Second-team All-WAC in 1964-65
* First-team All-WAC in 1965-66
* First in rebounding average in UW history (11.4 per game)
* Fifth in rebounds in UW history (889)
* Second in double-doubles in UW history (41)
Until a guy named Reggie Slater came along, Leon Clark was the rebounding king at Wyoming with 889. The Illinois product, nearly six decades later, still ranks fifth in that category in school history.
Not too shabby for an undersized center that stood just 6-foot-6.
Clark led the Western Athletic Conference in rebounding during his final two seasons in Laramie. He still owns the best single-season average, pulling down an average of 11.4 boards per game.
Clark was a freshman phenom for the Pokes, netting 21 points per night. The following season, 1963, the sophomore came out of the gate with a 33 performance in the season opener at No. 5-ranked Wichita State.
As a senior, Clark averaged 22.4 points per game. He still owns a Fieldhouse record after snagging 24 boards in a game against Arizona.
When you are grabbing rebounds and scoring at that rate, double-doubles are just a formality. Clark finished with 41 of those, which is still good enough for second in program history, just 17 behind Slater.
Clark was selected by the Boston Celtics with the 18th overall pick (second round) in the 1966 NBA Draft. There's an infamous story behind that.
Red Auerbach, former Boston coach and executive, received a letter from Clark and his representative after he was selected. Listen to how former Celtic Jim Barnett, who was taken in the first round by the team that season, describes the ordeal.
"Red Auerbach was an egotistical bully," Barnett told basketball intelligence.net in 2020. "He had stepped down as the Celtics coach, and Bill Russell was the new player-coach. Thank goodness for that because Auerbach was insufferable. He flew me to Boston right after I graduated and said, 'Before we talk about your contract, I want to read you a letter from our second-round draft pick’s attorney.'
Their second-round draft pick was a guy named Leon Clark from Wyoming. There were only 10 teams back then, so a second-rounder was one of the first 20 picks. The letter from Clark’s representative said that they would like a two-year contract guaranteed at $20,000 a year. And my mind is racing, I’m thinking that maybe as a number one I can get 18 or 20 or something like that. I had no advice whatsoever from anyone. It wasn’t a player’s league then. It was an owners’ league and a GM’s league and a coach’s league.
And Red said, 'You know what I’m gonna do with this letter?'
He tore it up right in front of me, and I guarantee you there was no second copy. Leon Clark never came to training camp. Leon Clark never played in the NBA. If you crossed Red Auerbach, you could get blackballed.
Red said, 'What we had in mind for you, son, was $11,000 and a $500 signing bonus.'”
Clark was cut before the season and never played in the NBA. He did suit up for the Hartford Capitols of the Eastern Professional Basketball League for one season before heading to Europe.
Clark was inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004.
Who else wore No. 15
Pete Fowler (50's), Bill Lange (50's), Don Carlson (50's), Bob Rhynsburger (50's), Monroe Hadden (50's), Harold Gardner (60's), Ron Rochlitz (60's), Fred Collins (60's), Gary Poush (60's), Brad Smith (60's), Mike White (70's), Greg Sawyer (90's), Supo Jegede (00's), Steve Leven (00's), Adam Waddell (00's), Jerron Granberry (10's), Brodericks Jones (10's), Tyler Morman (10's), Nate Barnhart (20's)
Look who wore the No. 14 best right HERE.
Check out our "Who Wore it Best" football series right HERE.
* All available rosters provided by the University of Wyoming Athletics Department. If we missed a player who wore this number, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
* A number of players wore different jersey numbers during their careers. From the 1930's through the 50's, players were issued a home and an away jersey.