ESPN’s “ 30 for 30 documentary on Ben Wilson that first ran last week brought back some memories. Iowa was recruiting Wilson, and was in position to get a campus visit from him, when he died. Here is a story I wrote for the Des Moines Register on Nov. 22, 1984, the day after Wilson died. As you read Raveling’s quotes at the end of the story, here is one sobering statistic: There were 669 homicides in Chicago in 1984.
Chicago high school basketball standout Ben Wilson, a top prospect on Iowa coach George Raveling’s recruiting list, died Wednesday from gunshot wounds.
Wilson, a 6-foot 8-inch, 17-year-old from Simeon Vocational High School in Chicago and one of the hottest basketball prospects in the country, was shot by two teen-agers in an incident near the South Side high school Tuesday and died at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
Raveling was one of the thousands expressing sympathy Wednesday over the death of Wilson.
“It’s such a tragedy,” said the Iowa coach.
“It’s hard to put these types of things in perspective. He was a fine young man. We were one of the final five choices. He still had two more visits to make, and we felt optimistic that we would get a visit out of him. We were probably fourth in the race behind Indiana, Illinois and DePaul.”
Raveling visited Wilson’s home as part of the recruiting process and came away impressed.
“I really enjoyed my home visit with him,” Raveling said. “He lived in a tough neighborhood, and that is even more of a compliment to him that he was able to overcome his environment.”
Raveling added his concern that Wilson’s death “has gotten a lot of attention because he was an outstanding basketball player. I heard Bill Russell once say, “What makes one life more valuable than another?’ There was probably some kid who was shot and killed in Chicago the same day that wasn’t an outstanding athlete. Yet his mother and father are grieving, and people are walking around asking, why?
“I guess I’m concerned that we don’t stand up and address ourselves to this simply because Ben Wilson was the nation’s No. 1 basketball prospect. We should be equally concerned that John X. was shot in the street. We should stand up in righteous indignation because John X. was equally important. It’s important that we get this into some kind of perspective.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball