BLOOMINGTON — Announced as a finalist in February, former Illinois Wesleyan star Jack Sikma exercised some caution in regard to his possible induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“You’re hopeful,” he said. “But you try to prepare yourself in case it doesn’t go your way.”
Not to worry.
A former seven-time National Basketball Association all-star, Sikma saw it go his way Saturday when he was announced as a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2019 on ESPN2 as part of the NCAA Final Four weekend in Minneapolis.
“I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment,” Sikma said when contacted later Saturday morning. “But it is fantastic. I have a lot in common with my classmates (in the Class of 2019). We all played against each other basically.
“We were maybe not the super, super star, but we came to work every day and did our best and were successful. It’s great to be a part of it this year.”
The induction ceremony will be Sept. 5-7 in Springfield, Mass. Also selected were Paul Westphal (player), Bobby Jones (player), Sidney Moncrief (player), Vlade Divac (player), Teresa Weatherspoon (five-time WNBA all-star), Linda Price (Wayland Baptist women's college team), Al Attles (contributor), Carl Braun (player), Chuck Cooper (player), Bill Fitch (coach) and the 1957-59 Tennessee A&I (team).
Sikma said he has “mixed feelings” his selection did not come until now.
“My parents have passed and they were there from the start and gave me such support,” he said. “But my family has grown. You go through life and you connect with so many people. A lot of those people are here and I appreciate that.”
Among them was Sikma’s coach at IWU, Dennie Bridges. The Titans’ retired coach and athletic director was able to stand on the back of the stage as Sikma was interviewed on ESPN2.
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“It’s amazing,” Bridges said of Sikma’s selection. “The common theme here is how deserving he is and how overdue it was. Bill Walton came up to us and said, ‘Jack, you’re not only deserving, but it’s way overdue.’”
A 1977 IWU graduate, Sikma is the school's all-time leading scorer (2,272 points) and rebounder (1,405) and, in each of his last three seasons, the Titans won College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin championships and advanced to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Tournament in Kansas City.
The No. 8 pick in the first round of the 1977 NBA draft by the Seattle SuperSonics, Sikma scored 17,287 points and had 10,816 rebounds in the NBA and was a key player on Seattle's 1979 NBA championship team. He holds Seattle's team records for rebounds (7,729) and free throws made (3,044).
“When I first saw Jack play (at St. Anne High School), I came back and told Coach (Jack) Horenberger, ‘I just saw the greatest player in Illinois Wesleyan history if I can recruit him,’” Bridges said. “I’ve never been more right in my life.
“To go from playing against North Central and Carthage and Augustana in 1977 to playing in the (NBA) world championship game in 1978 against the Bullets (then-Washington Bullets), is just unbelievable. Then they (the Sonics) won it the next year.”
Sikma’s signature move at IWU and in the NBA was his drop step/reverse pivot jump shot. There was a lot of talk about that Saturday, Bridges said.
“Jack explains it that ‘Coach Bridges gave it to me and I perfected it,’” Bridges added.
Sikma is the only center to have led the NBA in free throw shooting percentage, converting 92.2 percent in 1987-88 with the Milwaukee Bucks and his jersey has been retired both by IWU and the Seattle SuperSonics.
He has worked as an assistant coach for Seattle, Houston and Minnesota and currently serves as a coaching consultant for the Toronto Raptors.
At IWU, he was a three-time NAIA All-American and was the top vote-getter as an Associated Press College Division All-American as a senior when he averaged 27.0 points and 15.4 rebounds. In four years, his teams went 83-32 and he was chosen as the CCIW most outstanding player for three straight years.
Sikma was inducted into the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017, the NAIA Hall of Fame and was a member of the NAIA 50th & 75th All-Anniversary Teams. He also was a two-time Academic All-American and was selected in 1999 to the CoSIDA Academic All-American Hall of Fame.
Contact Randy Kindred at (309) 820-3402. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_kindred