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Former Illini star Johnny “Red” Kerr passes away

Johnny “Red” Kerr, a former standout for the Illini men’s basketball team whose jersey hangs inside the Assembly Hall, died Thursday at the age of 76 from prostate cancer.

Kerr played for Illinois in the early ’50s, and averaged 25.3 points per game as a 6-foot-9 center during his senior campaign in 1954. He was drafted with the sixth overall pick in the ’54 draft by the Syracuse Nationals, then went on to win an NBA championship as a rookie as Syracuse defeated Ft. Wayne, which included former Illini star Andy Phillip. Kerr was joined on that Nationals team by another former Illini, Wally Osterkorn.

Kerr was an Ironman, rarely missing a game during his 12-year career. He finished with a career scoring average of 13.8 points, and averaged a double-double for eight consecutive seasons. Kerr, whose teams never missed the playoffs, played most of his career for the Nationals. Upon retiring, he coached the Chicago Bulls for two seasons from 1966–68, then spent two years coaching the expansion Suns. Kerr later became a longtime, beloved broadcaster for the Bulls.

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