Statue outside Millett Hall to honor Embry’s ‘impact’ at Miami, beyond

Before Michael Jordan, there was Wayne Embry.

The 1950s Miami basketball star made uniform No. 23 famous enough in the 1950s to have it retired by the university in his honor, long before the Chicago Bulls’ icon made it a go-to number in the 1980s and 1990s.

Embry’s legacy will be further burnished this spring when Miami dedicates a statue in his image at the South Entrance to Millett Hall.

Darrell Hedric, a Miami basketball senior when Embry was a freshman in the 1954-1955 season who went on to become the RedHawks’ all-time leader in coaching wins and have a number retired in his honor, served with Miami’s Assistant Vice President of Development and Gift Planning Jayne Whitehead and former Miami star Randy Ayers on the Embry statue committee. He considers Embry, who served on Miami’s Board of Trustees for 14 years and became in 1972 the first National Basketball Association African-American general manager with the Milwaukee Bucks, a “perfect example” of a Miami graduate.

“When I told you he was a smart player, I mean he was very intelligent,” Hedric, who spent 15 years as a Cleveland Cavaliers scout under Embry as general manager, said Thursday morning. “He was always involved. He and his wife, Terry (who recently passed away), were always involved in all sorts of community activities.”

Miami also is creating the Wayne Embry Scholarship to support the varsity men’s basketball student-athletes.

“On my recruiting visit in 1954, I distinctly remember walking through the halls of Withrow Court and seeing the photos of some of Miami’s most famous and respected coaches; Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Walter Alston, Weeb Ewbank to name a few,” Embry, an 83-year-old Springfield native who now lives in Centerville, said in a statement released by the university.

“The experience was profound, providing inspiration and confidence for me throughout my collegiate career and a moment I also reflected back upon when I first became general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks. I took great pride in representing Miami of Ohio on the basketball floor and cherished all of the invaluable lessons learned and relationships developed but just as importantly, I highly valued the education I received and the foundation it provided for my opportunities both in the NBA and in business. The pride I have as a Miami of Ohio alumnus is deep and I am genuinely grateful and touched to have the enduring honor.”

“The impact that Wayne Embry has made in his lifetime goes so far beyond Miami University and the game of basketball at all levels,” Miami Director of Athletics David Sayler said in a statement. “It is impossible to put into words the true scope of his influence and the ground he paved for so many. To be able to honor him with a statue that will be a permanent tribute means so much to our basketball program, athletic department and university. I want to sincerely thank Randy Ayers and Jayne Whitehead for spearheading the efforts with the donors to make this project a reality.”

“This statue honors the legacy of Wayne Embry and his life and career of courageous leadership, generous service, and unparalleled commitment to team, collaboration, and his alma mater” Miami University President Gregory Crawford said. “Miami is a place for trailblazers and innovators. Wayne is a tremendous example of the grit and tenacity that is emblematic of RedHawks. In the years to come, countless students, faculty, staff, and visitors will be inspired by his story, leadership and successes.”

Embry will be depicted in the statue – the first on the campus honoring an African-American – shooting his signature hook shot. Gifts from the Gordon and Llura Gund 1993 Foundation and the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors helped make the statue possible.

The 6-foot-8, 240-pound Embry scored 1,401 points during his Miami career, still ranking among the university’s top 12 all-time career scorers more than 50 years later. Even more impressive, his 1,117 rebounds still rank second all-time at Miami. Inducted into Miami University’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1970, Embry, a Tecumseh High School graduate, is one of only six Miami men’s basketball players to have his number retired.

He played for the Cincinnati Royals, Boston Celtics and Bucks during an 11-year NBA career and was part of Boston’s 1967-1968 championship team.

Besides one year as chairman of the Board of Trustees, he served with Terry on the College of Education, Health and Society’s advisory board, as well as the steering committees for Miami’s Campaign for Love and Honor and Graduating Champions Campaign.

Embry received the university’s Distinguished Achievement Medal in 2001 and its Intercollegiate Athletics Inclusive Excellence Award in 2019. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1999 nad the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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