Dayton players hoist Don Meineke after defeating Arizona in an NIT quarterfinal game in 1951 | Sun-Times library
Updated: October 10, 2013 6:08AM
DAYTON, Ohio — Early University of Dayton basketball hero and NBA player Don Meineke has died at age 82 after a long illness.
The school said he passed away Tuesday at his home in a suburban Dayton retirement community.
Nicknamed “Monk,” the 6-7 Dayton native led the Flyers to their first 20-win season and first NIT appearance. In 1953, he was the first NBA rookie of the year as a member of the Fort Wayne Pistons. He was the first University of Dayton product to play in the NBA, and ended his career in 1957-58 with the Cincinnati Royals.
He was named AP second-team All-American his senior year, and was the first Flyer to top 1,000 career points. He totaled 1,866, still sixth all time for the school.
Mr. Meineke is a charter member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, and last March was honored in the inaugural “Atlantic 10 Legends” class.
Mr. Meineke recalled, in a 2010 Dayton Daily News interview, the pressure and excitement of going to New York’s Madison Square Garden for the NIT. Dayton finished second in both 1951 and 1952.
“That was THE tournament,” Mr. Meineke said. “The excitement was unbelievable . . . At that time, they introduced you with a spotlight. You’d run to the center of the floor and throw the ball back to the next player. But it was strictly business.
“We weren’t there to look at the skyscrapers.”
He averaged 10.7 points per game as a center-forward for Fort Wayne in 1952-53, and said he learned of the rookie of the year honor by reading about it in the newspaper.
He was preceded in death by his wife Mary Jan in 2011. Survivors include four children and eight grandchildren.