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Former Basketball: Former UL basketball player Roy Ebron passes away

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, October 2, 2014


The Ragin’ Cajuns basketball program has lost a key piece who disappeared for decades, then returned home just a few years ago.

Roy Ebron, who starred at center for the Cajuns during their heyday in the early 1970s, passed away Sunday, a UL spokesman said Wednesday.

He was 63.

Ebron, who finished his career as the school’s all-time leading rebounder, died at his New Orleans-area home of St. Rose.

He had a heart attack, former teammate Steve Caldwell said.

The 6-foot-9, 220-pound Ebron played for the then-University of Southwestern Louisiana under storied head coach Beryl Shipley for three seasons from 1970-73, and was an honorable mention All-American selection in 1972, when he averaged a career-best 23.0 points and 14.2 rebounds per game.

"When Roy was the top of his game," Caldwell said, "he was unbelievable."

"He was a super guy. Super," added another former teammate, Steve Green, who cried when he heard the news from Caldwell. "As good as he was, he was low-key. He didn’t show it and act it. He was super. … He was fantastic. A great teammate. We had a blast together."

Ebron’s 1,064 rebounds remain No. 1 among Cajun career leaders. His average of 12.2 boards per game is second, and his career 57.9 field-goal percentage is third.

An All-Gulf States Conference selection as a freshman and a two-time first-team All-Southland Conference pick, he was inducted last May into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame – becoming the sixth ex-Cajuns player and ninth member of the program so recognized.

Ebron came to UL from Norfolk, Va.

He left as the Cajuns’ fourth-leading scorer with 1,683 points, which currently ranks seventh among program leaders, and his 19.4 points-per-game scoring average is sixth in school history.

He had six games with at least 20 rebounds, including a single-game high 28 vs. Northwestern State on Jan. 10, 1972.

Ebron teamed with Dwight "Bo" Lamar, among others, and helped lead the Cajuns to two straight NCAA Division I Tournament appearances – later vacated – and a third-place finish in the NCAA Division II Tournament.

"Him and Bo complemented each other," Caldwell said, "and it was a great ride they had."

"If Bo missed, Roy got the rebound, putback," Green added. "That was how Roy got his points."

According to a Bruce Brown story written earlier this year for the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches, Ebron "had to adapt" when he joined a program that already had Lamar as its centerpiece.

"He quickly became Mr. Inside to Lamar’s Mr. Outside," Brown wrote, "forming a lethal one-two punch that propelled the Ragin’ Cajuns to records of 25-4, 25-4 and 24-5 over the next three years."

"I had to readjust when I got there," Ebron told Brown. "It was a different situation. Bo got there the year before I did, so you figure your situation out."

Then-Cajuns assistant coach Tom Cox helped Ebron do just that.

"Bo … was leading the nation in scoring, so (Ebron) knew he wasn’t going to get a whole lot of passes," Cox told Brown. "When Roy said Bo should pass instead of shoot, I told him, ‘Bo is hitting 45 percent of his shots, so he’s missing more than half of them. You’ll do all right if you get the misses and put them back in.’ "

Said Lamar to Brown for the same story: "If I had to pick someone to go into battle with, I’d pick Roy." And, Lamar joked to Brown, "I helped him pad his rebounding stats."

When the NCAA subsequently shut down Shipley’s Cajuns program for recruiting and rules violations, Ebron left Lafayette and spent the 1973-74 season with the ABA’s Utah Stars.

The New York Knicks selected Ebron in the fourth round of the ’74 NBA Draft, and he later played overseas.

According to a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame website story, "Many of the (NCAA) charges against USL involved Lamar and Roy Ebron. … One of the stories involving Ebron was that he won a drawing for a new automobile at a Lafayette dealership the day after he arrived on campus."

Ebron didn’t always see eye-to-eye with Shipley, who was shunned by the school for a long time after the NCAA violation.

The two even argued over facial hair.

The UL program lost contact with Ebron for numerous years, but he reconnected at a 2011 function in Lafayette. When he did, Ebron had nothing but good to say about Shipley.

"Nobody knew where I was,” Ebron told the Daily Advertiser at the time. "They couldn’t find me. I was moving too fast. … I didn’t find out about Beryl (dying earlier in 2011) until the day of his memorial.

"I wish I could have gotten back before this happened to him – let’s just say ‘to tell him I respected him.’ "

Ebron was not in good health when he came to Lafayette in 2011 – the first time he’d been back in the city since his playing days.

He was dealing with diabetes and high blood pressure then, and had just had a cast removed from his leg that he said had been on for two years.

"Roy was overjoyed by the reception he got," said Caldwell, who learned of the death from Ebron’s wife Tuesday. "He was just very impressed with everybody remembering what he’d done. He was very happy to be welcomed back."

"I didn’t know what had happened to him, didn’t know anything about him," Green added. "But it seemed like, when we were together, we had never been away."

Green, who lives in Ohio, traded monthly phone calls with Ebron since 2011.

Also keeping in regular touch was Caldwell, who was instrumental in facilitating the reunion of a program and its long-lost center.

"It took a little while to find him," Caldwell said. "I had to go into New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. … But I was glad to see him again – and then I found out he lived three miles from my house all these years.

"It was unbelievable. He and I have been friends ever since then – reacquainted friends."

Caldwell started to bring his rediscovered pal deer sausage that he savored, and Ebron called the former teammate one day after Caldwell had heart surgery.

The two last saw each other about a month ago.

"He was really a friend. He really was," Caldwell said. "He turned out to be a better friend at the end – because we just played ball together, you know? … He was just a great guy, and when he was your friend he was your friend. He was a straight shooter."

A memorial service is planned for Ebron, but details have not been finalized.

Athletic Network Footnote: Please click here for the AN profile of Roy Ebron.