Dear members of the Pizza Hut Shocker Sports Hall of Fame:
In the past, I have written often about the exclusion of former Wichita State basketball player Robert Elmore (1973-77) to the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame. I have made what I thought were valid points, but years pass without Elmore being elected. I, of course, believe he is more than worthy as a player who ranks second all-time at WSU in blocked shots (132), rebounds (1,039) and
rebounding average (12.4), and who scored 1,186 points and was a 51.1 percent field-goal shooter. He did all that while playing only three full seasons – he did play in two games as a freshman during the 1973-74 season.
Elmore was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference player and a key part of the 1975-76 Shocker team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament before losing in a close first-round game to Michigan.
At nearly 7-feet tall, he was, in my opinion, the greatest true center in Shocker basketball history.
Yet he is not one of the 27 men associated with the men’s basketball program in the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame. I have never received a clear explanation of why not, and feel that in this case one is needed. There are fewer and fewer people who remember those Shocker teams of the mid-1970s, but they were among the best that Wichita State has produced. And those who do remember, I would think, also are mystified by Elmore’s exclusion.
As a next step, I am writing this formal letter to the committee. I hope you will consider Elmore’s strong merits. I am the first to admit that some of Elmore’s off-court behavior was questionable, including his death. Anyone who wants to learn more about those circumstances can do so by reading my past columns. I have addressed them.
I do not believe, however, that these kind of character issues should be used as a barometer by the committee that selects the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame members. It is impossible for committee members to know much about the character of those Shocker athletes who have been chosen unless that character has been publicly scrutinized. And I know of several SSHOF members who have had their character tarnished by off-the-court behavior in the past.
Here is a short accounting of Elmore’s professional basketball experience in Europe, after he was cut by the New Jersey Nets in 1977. This is from “Sports Illustrated.”
Bob Elmore, a 23-year-old forward out of Wichita State, was able to catch on with Lazio-Eldorado of Rome in the fall of 1977 after he had been cut by the New Jersey Nets. “He was kind of disappointed that he hadn’t made the Nets,” says Elmore’s American teammate in Rome, Abdul Jeelani, who’s now with the NBA Trail Blazers. When Elmore missed a day of practice about three weeks after his arrival, Jeelani and officials of the team went to Elmore’s apartment, where they found him dead on the floor of an overdose of heroin. Elmore was not a regular user; the fatal needle mark investigators found in his arm was the only one. “He used to walk around in short-sleeve shirts over big muscles,” says Jeelani. “I think he just wanted to get high for a while and forget where he was.”
Elmore, by all accounts, was a good man. But as a young man, he struggled to find his way. His brother, Len, doesn’t hide from that face, as he talked about in one of my many Elmore columns from the past. But Len, who played at Maryland and went on to become a cherished member of society, talks glowingly about his brother, Robert. So do the ex-teammates I have been able to contact.
I would ask that you again strongly consider Robert Elmore for the Pizza Hut Shocker Sports Hall of Fame. I would contend that your Hall of Fame is incomplete and diminished without his inclusion.
Thanks for your time.
The Wichita Eagle