The 100 Moments of TSU Athletics presented by Taco Bell® series continues by remembering a former Tennessee State student-athlete who was drafted by a professional team four times.
Most TSU fans know about the famous three-peat of NAIA Basketball National Championships that the Tigers earned from 1957-59. Coach McClendon and Dick Barnett led the squad, becoming the first black team to win the title.
However, one player that is sometimes forgotten is guard John Barnhill.
Barnhill was the point guard on those successful squads and assisted Barnett on many of his buckets. Barnhill was no slouch around the basket either, tallying 1,253 points during his career as a Tiger.
Barnhill’s career point number ranks him 19th all-time, which is quite impressive considering the hundreds of Tigers that have played at TSU since the 62 years since he retired.
Barnhill’s ability around the bucket and the publicity of the titles made professional teams take note of him.
In 1959, the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks took a chance on Barnhill with their 11th round draft pick.
Barnhill played an average of 21 quality minutes per game for the Hawks, and tallied 8.5 points per game.
A few years later, in 1966, the Chicago Bulls were set to join the NBA. The Bulls liked what they saw from Barnhill and gained the rights to draft the guard from Barnhill’s old team.
Barnhill never played a second for the Bulls, as the Baltimore Bullets bought his rights from Chicago. Barnhill averaged eight points per contest with the Bullets, causing him to get drafted by the NBA’s newest team- the San Diego Rockets.
The following season, the Phoenix Suns joined the league and guess who they drafted on their team? That’s right, Barnhill.
Barnhill averaged 13 points and four assists per game during his NBA career.
Barnhill eventually ended his career with the Indiana Pacers of the ABA in 1972, and was inducted into the Tennessee State Sports Hall of Fame in 1983.
The 100 Moments of TSU Athletics presented by Taco Bell® highlights some of the greatest moments in honor of Tennessee State's centennial celebration. A new moment will be released each weekday for a total of 100. These moments were chosen by the TSU 100 Moments committee, which consists of alums from various departments. TSU has so many great moments, not all can be represented in these 100.
Sports Information Assistant Alex Mitchell contributed to this article.
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