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Published: Tuesday, 7/24/2012

College great Ralph Sampson honored locally for hall induction

3-time Naismith Award draws praise

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Ralph Sampson, right, was one-half of the Houston Rockets' Twin Towers (along with Hakeem Olajuwon), which helped earn him a place among the 2012 Naismith Hall of Fame class. Ralph Sampson, right, was one-half of the Houston Rockets' Twin Towers (along with Hakeem Olajuwon), which helped earn him a place among the 2012 Naismith Hall of Fame class.
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It's easy to say Ralph Sampson's professional basketball career didn't quite measure up to lofty expectations entering the NBA as a three-time Naismith Award winner for college player of the year.

The 7-foot-4 center/power forward played in the NBA from 1983 to 1992, averaging 15.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. Solid numbers, but nowhere near expectations for someone billed as a game-changing phenom. Sampson, often hampered by injuries, played only 456 games during a nine-year career.

Still, his overall impact on the game, which includes being one-half of the Houston Rockets' Twin Towers (along with Hakeem Olajuwon), helped earn him a place among the 2012 Naismith Hall of Fame class.

Sampson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1983 NBA draft, is humbled by the induction.

"It's really an honor to be recognized as one of the best among your peers," Sampson said.

Reggie Miller, Don Nelson, Chet Walker, Jamaal Wilkes, and Phil Knight are among the class that will be inducted into the hall in September.

Sampson's recognition honors a stellar college career in which he made Virginia a national contender, winning a NIT championship in 1980 and making a NCAA Final Four appearance in 1981. His ability to move about on the court with the fluidity of a small forward separated him from other post players during his day.

Sampson, who was honored on Sunday locally during Our Brothers Place one-year anniversary celebration weekend for his upcoming hall induction, transcended the game with his ballhandling skills and graceful mobility around the basket.

Among his college highlights included a career-high 40-points and 16 rebounds as a sophomore to lead the Cavaliers to an 89-73 win over an Ohio State team led by senior center Herb Williams and sophomore Clark Kellogg.

In his first NBA season, Sampson averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks to earn rookie of the year honors. He was joined by Olajuwon in his second season and still averaged 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds while moving over to power forward.

However, the Twin Towers failed to win a NBA championship, reaching the NBA finals only once before Sampson's time in Houston came to an end after being traded to Golden State in 1987.

Sampson doesn't believe never winning a title diminishes his career.

"There have been a lot of great players in the game who never won a title," he said.

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com, 419-724-6302, or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade



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