Seton Hall star and Hall of Famer Bobby Wanzer dies at 94

Publish date:

PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) Hall of Famer Bobby Wanzer, who starred at point guard for Seton Hall in the 1940s and led the Rochester Royals to their only NBA championship, has died.

Wanzer died Saturday at his home outside Rochester at age 94. His family announced his death.

Born in Brooklyn in 1921, Wanzer played for New York City championship teams at Benjamin Franklin High School in Harlem in 1940 and 1941 before enrolling at Seton Hall. He was a standout for the Pirates for two seasons, 1942-43 and 1946-47, his college career interrupted for three years while he served in the Marines during World War II. In those two seasons, Wanzer led the Pirates to a 40-5 record, including what was then a program-best 24 wins in 1946-47, when he led the team in scoring at 11.6 points per game.

After being selected by the Royals with the 10th overall pick of the draft in 1948, the 6-foot Wanzer teamed with Bob Davies and Frank ''Pep'' Saul, whom he played with at Seton Hall, to help guide the Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) to the 1951 NBA Championship.

In the finals, Wanzer averaged 12.4 points and 3.6 assists and scored 13 points in the decisive Game 7 to help beat the New York Knicks.

''We were an exceptional team passing the basketball,'' Wanzer told The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in a 2003 interview. ''We played tough man-to-man defense, we were a smart team that knew how to control the ball before the 24-second clock, and we made our free throws.''

In nine NBA seasons, all with the Royals, Wanzer averaged 12.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists. He was a five-time NBA All-Star and three-time All-NBA second-team selection. In 1952, he also set a league record for free-throw shooting percentage at 90.4 percent, which was later broken. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987.

After his NBA playing career, Wanzer coached the Royals for three and a half seasons and in 1962 was named the first men's head basketball coach at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford. He coached there for 24 years and also served as athletic director.

Wanzer was inducted into the Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame in 1974 and his uniform No. 8 was retired by the college in 1987. He also was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.

Wanzer is survived by a son and two daughters; a sister, Marilyn Ulrich; and five grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. His wife, Nina, died in 2005.

A funeral mass was scheduled for Wednesday morning at Church of the Transfiguration in Pittsford.