CARBONDALE — SIU Hall of Famer Joe C. Meriweather died suddenly in Georgia over the weekend, according to Park University, where he was the winningest women’s basketball coach in school history.
Meriweather died Sunday in Columbus, Ga., according to a statement from the school. He was 59.
The 6-foot-10 center grabbed 1,005 rebounds and scored 1,536 points at SIU between 1973-75, which ranks him third and eighth in school history, respectively. Meriweather was ineligible to play his freshman year because of NCAA rules back then, but left school with two school records that still stand. He averaged a record-14.9 rebounds per game as a junior in 1973-74 in
26 games. His total caroms that year, 387, is also a Saluki record.
Meriweather scored 30 or more points six times as a senior, helping SIU reach the NIT in 1975 before finishing 18-9. His 1,536 points were second only to Charlie “Chico” Vaughn’s 2,088 at the time he graduated. Meriweather went on to play 10 years in the NBA after getting picked by Houston with the 11th overall selection in 1975.
The center played in 670 games with Houston, Atlanta, the New Orleans Jazz, New York and Kansas City, scoring 5,439 points (8.1 per game) and grabbing 3,764 rebounds (5.6 per game). He made the NBA All-Rookie Team after averaging 10.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game for the 1976 Rockets in 81 games. Meriweather played in 74 games, all off the bench, for the 1980-81 Kansas City Kings, who reached the Western Conference finals against Houston.
He played two more pro seasons in the European League in Bologna, Italy and Barcelona, Spain, before turning to coaching. Meriweather coached the Kansas City Mustangs of the Women’s Basketball Association from 1992-95, and Bishop Hogan High School and Penn Valley Community College before going to Park. He led Park University to its only NAIA national tournament appearance in 2005-06, when the Pirates finished 22-3. Under Meriweather, Park won 128 games between 1997-2010.
Meriweather left behind four children, Joe, Laureese, Jonathan and Jillian; one brother Ronald, and two sisters, June and Brenda. A memorial service for Meriweather will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Breckon Sports Center on the Park University campus in Parkville, Mo.
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