Editor’s note: This is the third of 10 stories detailing the exploits of players and coaches nominated for SIU’s All-Century basketball team.

Saluki basketball burst onto the national scene during the 1960s.

Walt Frazier, Dick Garrett, Chuck Benson and company took the Big Apple by storm in 1967, winning the National Invitational Tournament. Jack Hartman’s 1967 squad remains the most celebrated basketball team in Southern Illinois University history.

SIU defeated Al McGuire’s Marquette team 71-56 in the NIT title game.

“It was a matter of a good club going up against a great club,” McGuire told the Associated Press after the game. “They (SIU) are No. 3 in the nation in my book — behind UCLA and North Carolina.”

Not surprisingly, three members of that team, Frazier, Garrett and Benson are nominated for the All-Century team.

Frazier, of course, went on to be one of the greatest players in NBA history. He played just 50 games in an SIU uniform but scored 884 points, 17.7 points per game, including 21 in the NIT title game.

He earned All-American honors and is a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. Frazier’s No. 52 is one of just two numbers retired at SIU.

Garrett, a Centralia native, averaged nearly 16 points per game for the NIT team. He went on to play in the NBA for Los Angeles, Buffalo and Milwaukee. He was drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Lakers where he played alongside Jerry West.

Garrett scored 1,337 points in his SIU career, still 20th on the all-time list. He was inducted into the SIU Hall of Fame in 1984.

Benson is the third member of the NIT team on the ballot.

He scored 755 points while playing from 1966-69. A force on the boards, Benson had 501 rebounds in his career, 28th all-time. He was also an outstanding track athlete at SIU.

Other nominees include McLeansboro’s David Lee. Lee played for 1963-66, averaging more than 10 points per game in his career.

Lee was a UPI honorable mention All-American in 1965. After leaving SIU he had a long career as a prep basketball coach. His McLeansboro team won the 1984 Class A state championship.

George McNeil played for the Salukis from 1964-66. Like Lee, he was a UPI honorable mention All-American in 1965.

McNeil scored 1,080 points for the Salukis. He led the team in scoring in 1966 when SIU advanced to the NCAA College Division National Tournament.

Joe Ramsey came to SIU from Sandoval. He scored 1,030 points from 1963-65. Ramsey was a graduate assistant on the 1967 NIT team. He went on to coach the University of Oklahoma.

John “Mouse” Garrett is the final nominee from the 60s. His career spanned two decades, 1969-72.

A Patoka native, Garrett scored 995 points in his 72-game career, nearly 14 points per game. An outstanding free-throw shooter, Garrett’s 85 percent from the line still ranks fifth all-time at SIU.

He was a first-team Midwestern Conference selection in 1972.

Voting for the All-Century team begins. Fans can vote by going to www.siusalukis.com.

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