Dead, Cleo Hill, born May 24, 1938 and died August 10, 2015, he was an American former professional basketball player who was selected by the St. Louis Hawks in the first round (8th overall) of the 1961 NBA Draft.
A 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) guard from Newark, New Jersey and the Winston-Salem State University, Hill played in the National Basketball Association for one season with the Hawks, in 1961-62, averaging 5.5 points in 58 games.
Hill was only the fifth African-American from an historically Black college and university to be taken in the first round of an NBA draft.
In 2008, Hill was profiled in a segment on the ESPN documentary Black Magic, which told the story of African Americans and basketball.
The segment asserted that early in that 1961-62 season, St. Louis Hawks coach Paul Seymour was told by team management to severely diminish Hill’s offensive role so that stars Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan, and Clyde Lovellette (who were all white) would receive more shot attempts.
Seymour refused and was fired, and Hill’s scoring averaged dropped from 10.8 points per game to 5.5 points per game. Hill never played in the NBA after that season.
Hill had denied that his race was a factor in his NBA struggles, saying, “It wasn’t racial. It was points.”
He went on to become a successful head coach at Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey.