Alex Groza

Alex  Groza

Alex Groza, at 6-foot-7, 220-pounds, led the Purple Riders to two straight undefeated regular seasons in basketball and to the Ohio state tournament both years.

Martins Ferry finished 24-1 in 1943 and 26-1 the following season. The Purple Riders won the first OVAC Class AA basketball championship in 1944 as Groza scored a valley record 628 points (a mark later broken by 2004 OVAC Hall of Fame inductee Ken Alessi). Groza scored 41 vs. Tiltonsville.  He was an all-conference and all-Ohio first-team selection.

Alex was the top scorer and rebounder on the University of Kentucky’s “Fabulous Five,” which won back-to-back NCAA titles in 1948 and ‘49, with Groza being named the tournament MVP both years. He was a three-time all-Southeastern Conference choice and a two-time consensus All-American. He set 22 individual SEC records.

Groza still ranks seventh on Kentucky’s all-time scoring list with 1,744 points. Alex’s jersey number (15) was retired by the school. Groza and four of his UK teammates Ralph Beard, Wallace Jones, Cliff Barker and Kenny Rollins won a gold medal as U.S. Olympians at the London Games in 1948. Groza, in 1949, was named the Helms Foundation Basketball Player of the Year. In a 1950 Associated Press nationwide poll of sports writers selecting the leading athletes of the half-century, Alex was chosen as one of the five top-rated basketball players.

In the NBA, Groza averaged 22.5 points in 130 pro games with the Indianapolis Olympians in 1950 and ‘51.

He coached Bellarmine (Ky.) College from 1959 through 1966. The school had never won a basketball championship before Groza’s tenure. He led the Knights to the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season and tournament title in 1963, after which he was named the league coach of the year.

Groza later served as business manager and then assistant to the president of the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels before becoming general manager of the San Diego Conquistadors until the franchise folded. He then served as GM of a professional volleyball team for one year before joining Reynolds Metals in 1977 as a regional sales manager.

Groza died of lung cancer at his home in San Diego on January 21, 1995.

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