Interview Conducted 10/21/2008
Few athletes can lay claim to having an arena or stadium affectionately named in their honor. Cazzie Russell is one of them.
A legendary basketball prodigy from Chicago’s Southside, Russell arrived onto the city’s basketball scene when he led Carver High School’s Junior Varsity program to the Chicago city JV Title in 1960.
By his senior year, Russell paced Carver High School to the Chicago city title in 1962, averaging over 25 points a game.
As one of the most coveted senior prospects in the country, Russell received offers from over 50 college basketball programs. He narrowed his choices to UCLA, Marquette, Cincinnati, and Michigan.
Cincinnati sent Oscar Robertson, by then an NBA star with the Cincinnati Royals, to Carver High School to visit with Russell.
RUSSELL: “I had a tough decision because Oscar Robertson came to my high school. I idolized the way he played of course because we were the same size.”
Russell visited Michigan in the spring and developed a friendship with his tour guide, freshman Bill Buntin.
RUSSELL: “I was comfortable with Bill Buntin who was my host. As a young player coming out of high school, it was important to feel comfortable with [another] guy being from a predominantly black area.”
Russell ultimately chose Michigan because the basketball program was in a rebuilding stage.
RUSSELL: “It was basically a football school, so there probably wouldn’t be a lot of pressure. That was one of my major decisions.”
Russell led Michigan to three Big 10 titles, averaging 27.1 points per game in his career. He was a three-time AP All American. Continue reading