A Life Remembered: Dave Scholz

A Life Remembered: Dave Scholz

CHAMPAIGN — Dave Scholz graduated from Illinois as the men’s basketball program’s all-time leading scorer. The first Illini standout in the post- slush fund era, Scholz died Dec. 5 at age 67.

Scholz helped lead Stephen Decatur to a third-place finish in the 1964 IHSA state tournament as a junior, and the Runnin’ Reds went 62-5 in his two years at the school after he moved back to Decatur from Mount Zion.

Scholz considered Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky — where he could have teamed with Pat Riley and Louie Dampier — along with Northwestern, Davidson and Georgia Tech before deciding to attend Illinois.

Scholz averaged 20.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in his three-year Illinois career. Freshmen were not eligible for varsity competition at that time. His 20.5 ppg average still stands as second in program history behind Nick Weatherspoon (20.9 ppg).

“I wasn’t a standout,” Scholz told FoxSports.com in a November interview for a story about his brief NBA career. “I got thrust into the role of scorer, and that was my designated role. Because in terms of people who could go one-on-one and jump out of the gym, we didn’t have anybody like that. We had good, sound, team-oriented people who accepted the plan from (coach Harv Schmidt) and his assistants and were willing to subject themselves to that.”

Scholz’s 1,459 career points now stands 14th in Illini history — although it’s second behind Weatherspoon among players who played three seasons.

“He was probably forced to play center because of some guys that were off the team,” said Les Busboom, who played with Scholz at Illinois from 1967 to ’69. The two were roommates one year, although Busboom, a Royal native who still lives in his hometown, added he lost touch with Scholz after their playing days.

“At 6-8, he probably would have been more comfortable at forward,” Busboom said. “He played center in high school, so he was familiar with it. We didn’t have a lot of 6-10 guys, it didn’t seem, in those days.

“He adapted well at center in college. Schmidt set the offense to get him 8- to 10-foot shots. He was good at turnaround jump shots. He was a hardworking guy all the time. He was a really good guy.”

Scholz was ultimately drafted by the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels and the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. He signed with the 76ers and made his only appearance in a 129-105 win against the Baltimore Bullets. Scholz took one shot and made it — those two points the sum total of his NBA career.

“It’s good cocktail conversation,” Scholz told FoxSports. “Who is one of the only players — because there are a few — who retired with a perfect field goal percentage? People always go, ‘Well, I have no idea,’ and then I say, ‘You’re looking at him.’ ”

Scholz earned a master’s in accounting following his professional career — two seasons in the Eastern League after being optioned by Philadelphia — and worked at Caterpillar before spending six years for an oil company in Saudi Arabia. He settled in Nashville, Tenn., in 1986, where he worked and took up ballroom dancing.



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jjohnson wrote on December 17, 2015 at 8:12 am

Dave Scholz (and Jim Dawson) had to carry a team ravaged by the Slush Fund Scandal and did yeomen's work. 

As I have been noting to friends for the past months, that scandal -- which broke in December '66 as best I recall -- marked the beginning of what now seems like never-ending trouble for the U of I and its sports teams. It took football sixteen seasons to recover, and while basketball had some decent seasons before he arrived, it took Lou Henson -- and for him several seasons -- for basketball to recover.

What is sad is that what was confined to sports seems to have spread further. Personally, I find it extremely sad that Joe White and Richard Herman, Phyllis Wise and Adi were forced out trying to do what was best for the campus or (in Joe's case) University in the most corrupt and incompetently run state in the union. And I would wholeheartedly say that both Tim Beckman and Mike Thomas were trying to do the best possible at their jobs.

But the slush fund was different; what was done was wrong even though it came to light for petty personal reasons.

I just hope it does not take sixteen years to recover from our current troubles.

Illini '73 wrote on December 17, 2015 at 8:12 am

I knew Dave Scholz.  He was one of the good ones.  Sorry to hear of his passing.  Too young.

illinifaningeorgia wrote on December 17, 2015 at 11:12 am

Too young, indeed (I'm also 67).  I remember fondly those teams of the '60's.  Guys like Dave Downey, Jim Starnes, Bill Burwell, etc. that were one of the best teams in the Big Ten.