Basketball legend Johnny Wilson honored with statue

(WISH Photo/Tim McNicholas)

ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) – One of central Indiana’s basketball legends is being honored with a nine foot sculpture at Anderson High School.

‘Jumpin’ Johnny Wilson won state at Anderson High School, broke records at Anderson College and eventually played for the Harlem Globetrotters.

Wilson was named ‘Mr. Basketball’ in 1946 for his success at Anderson High. He wanted to play college basketball for Indiana University but he wasn’t offered a scholarship to Indiana University because of the color of his skin.

Historians say that move added pressure to the Big Ten and eventually helped break the race barrier for future athletes.

“There’s so many fellers who probably deserve it more than I do,” Wilson said. “I’m very honored to have this happen to me, especially when I’m still young.”

AHS retired Wilson’s jersey number at a 1998 basketball game. Seventeen years later, the school will honor him again by placing the sculpture outside the building.

“Maybe some kid little kid look and see it and say, hey, maybe I can do that,” Wilson said.

Artist Ken Ryden is making the sculpture in his Yorktown studio. He calls it, ‘Far Reaching Goals.’

“I came to Anderson in 1983 and it was one of the first things I learned about, people talking about ‘Jumpin’ Johnny,” Ryden said.

Wilson returned to Anderson University and finished his bachelor’s degree in 1970. He then earned a master’s degree from Indiana State University. He also spent years coaching basketball after his time playing for the Globetrotters.

Ryden and Wilson both hope that when people see the sculpture, they see more than just a basketball player.

“I hope they feel they can do some more things that can help them get an education, number one,” Wilson said. “I think that’s the most important thing.”

Wilson has been enshrined in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. He is a motivational speaker for high school and college athletes across the country.

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