Les Hunter, a barrier-breaker with Loyola Chicago’s 1963 NCAA men’s basketball championship team, died on Friday morning, the university announced on its website. He was 77.
Hunter passed away after a bout with cancer, a spokesperson from the university has told CNN.
“We are heartbroken to learn of Les’ passing,” said Steve Watson, Loyola’s director of athletics. “The Loyola family has lost a true legend, who was a major part our NCAA championship team in 1963. Les was an accomplished basketball player, but was even more valued for the person he was off the court. We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and former teammates.”
In 1963, Hunter, a 6-foot-7-inch center, was one of four African-American starters in the historic “Game of Change,” an NCAA tournament regional game against Mississippi State.
The Ramblers faced an all-white MSU team, winning 61-51 at Jenison Fieldhouse in East Lansing, Michigan.
Mississippi State had been forced to sneak out of the state of Mississippi in darkness before an injunction could be served that would have prevented the all-white team from playing Loyola.
Loyola went on to beat two-time defending champion Cincinnati 60-58 in overtime to win the NCAA title. It’s the only NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship for an Illinois school.
Hunter led all Ramblers with 16 points in the title game.