Clifton McNeely

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Clifton McNeely
Personal information
Born(1919-06-22)June 22, 1919
Greenwood, Texas
DiedDecember 26, 2003(2003-12-26) (aged 84)
Irving, Texas
Listed height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Career information
High schoolGreenwood (Greenwood, Texas)
Slidell (Slidell, Texas)
CollegeDallas Baptist (1939–1940)
Texas Wesleyan (1940–1942, 1946–1947)
BAA draft1947 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall
Selected by the Pittsburgh Ironmen
Coaching career1947–1960
Career history
As coach:
1947–1960Pampa HS
Career highlights and awards

Clifton McNeely (June 22, 1919 – December 26, 2003) was an American basketball player and coach.[1] A 5 ft 10 in forward,[2] he played college basketball at Texas Wesleyan University for three seasons and led the NAIA in scoring during his final season in 1946–47. McNeely was the first player ever drafted in the National Basketball Association when he was selected by the Pittsburgh Ironmen as the first pick of the league's inaugural 1947 draft. However, he never played basketball professionally and chose to coach high school basketball instead.

Early life[edit]

Clifton McNeely was born in Greenwood, Texas to Albert McNeely and Fannie Lee Clifton,[1] he attended Greenwood High School for three years before transferring to Slidell High School in Slidell, Texas for his senior year.[2] McNeely graduated in 1937.[3]

College and military career[edit]

McNeely first attended Decatur Baptist Junior College, where he set high-scoring records on the school's basketball team,[4] he transferred to Texas Wesleyan University in 1940,[5] but his "shot-crazy" style created doubt as to how well he could fit on the team.[4] During his first season at Texas Wesleyan in 1940–41, McNeely established himself as one of the most talented players on the team and was named team captain for the 1941–42 season,[2] he helped guide Texas Wesleyan to an undefeated record during the 1941–42 regular season, with the team's only two defeats coming in the postseason against Sam Houston State in the Southwestern AAU Tournament and San Diego in the Kansas City National Intercollegiate Basketball Tournament.[4]

In December 1942, McNeely left the team after volunteering to serve with the United States Army Air Corps in World War II.[2] During his service, he played basketball with the Fort Worth Army Air Field team from 1943 to 1944, and then with the Randolph Field team in 1945,[2] he was discharged on December 31, 1945.[2] During 1946, McNeely played with the Globe Aircraft team.[2]

McNeely received professional basketball contract offers following his discharge, including a "dollar, two eighty a game" deal with the Leonards "B" team, but elected to return to Texas Wesleyan for the 1946–47 season,[2] he was named team co-captain alongside Hardy Fortenberry.[2] Before the season's start, Texas Wesleyan coach Johnny Edwards stated that McNeely had "a good future in professional basketball and may play professionally after he graduates".[2] By the start of 1947, McNeely, nicknamed "The Man of a Million Shots", was leading the nation in scoring by a margin of 116 points,[6] he missed three games in January 1947 after suffering a fractured wrist.[7][8]

McNeely led his team to a school-best 30–4 record,[9] won the conference championship[10] and earned All-American honors after leading the NAIA in scoring with 725 points,[11] he held the Texas Wesleyan single season scoring record for 62 years until Chris Berry had 740 points in the 2008–09 season.[12] Regarded as a "deadly" free throw shooter,[8] McNeely also held the Texas Wesleyan record for most free throws made with 213 until that too was surpassed by Berry in the 2008–09 season with 216.[13]

McNeely studied Administrative Education at Texas Wesleyan,[14] and completed his master's degree after returning to the university in 1953.[14]

BAA draft[edit]

McNeely was selected with the first pick of the inaugural 1947 BAA draft by the Pittsburgh Ironmen, becoming the first player ever drafted in the National Basketball Association; the Ironmen had earned the first pick in the draft after attaining a 14–45 record in the first season of the Basketball Association of America.[15] However, McNeely was not interested in signing with the team, and ultimately never played a game of professional basketball. McNeely and Gene Melchiorre of the 1951 NBA draft are the only two number-one draft picks in NBA history to never play basketball professionally; the Pittsburgh Ironmen ended up folding before the start of the 1947–48 season.

Coaching career[edit]

After working for Phillips 66 in Bartlesville, Oklahoma for four months in 1947, McNeely returned to Texas and became the head basketball coach at Pampa High School in Pampa, Texas.[15] McNeely coached at the school for thirteen years and won four state championships while leading the team to a 320–43 record,[11] he was offered coaching positions at Texas universities including University of Texas at Austin, Rice University and University of Texas at El Paso, but elected to stay at Pampa.[15] After his coaching retirement in 1960,[15] the school's gymnasium was renamed McNeely Fieldhouse in his honor.[1]

Later life and death[edit]

McNeely worked in school administration following his retirement from coaching, he served as an assistant principal at Castleberry High School, principal at Bridgeport High School and Denton High School, and administrator at Irving Independent School District before retiring in 1985.[1]

McNeely died December 26, 2003, at the age of 84.[1]

Personal life[edit]

McNeely married Peggy Jean Gallagher, who was a fellow student at Texas Wesleyan, on June 14, 1947 in Cisco, Texas;[16] the couple had three children: twin sons Phil and Mike, and daughter Sheryl.[1] McNeely coached his two sons on the Pampa basketball team,[12] and they would both go on to become high school basketball coaches.[15]

McNeely was inducted into the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame, the Slidell ISD Hall of Fame, the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame and the Texas Wesleyan University Hall of Fame.[1][3][17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Clifton McNeely Obituary. December 29, 2003. Retrieved on April 14, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Henson (11 November 1946). "He's a Real Ram". The Rambler. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  3. ^ a b Hall of Fame - Slidell ISD Retrieved on June 2, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "TXWECO, Yearbook of Texas Wesleyan College, 1941 Page: 29". The Portal to Texas History. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  5. ^ "Item: Clifton McNeely". University of Texas Arlington Libraries. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  6. ^ "McNeely Hits Nations Top". The Rambler. 13 January 1947. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  7. ^ "McNeeley Leads Nation By 76 Points". The Rambler. 27 January 1947. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Yearbook of Texas Wesleyan College, 1947". The Portal to Texas History. Texas Wesleyan College. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  9. ^ "Wanamaker, Blake Named All-American". March 23, 2011. Retrieved on June 1, 2017.
  10. ^ "Rams Have Most Successful Season Since 40". The Rambler. 17 March 1947. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  11. ^ a b Wellnicki, Galen. "McNeely: An educator and a motivator" Amarillo Globe-News. February 28, 1999. Retrieved on June 1, 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Spring 2009 Texas Wesleyan Magazine". Texas Wesleyan University. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  13. ^ "Individual & Team Records". Texas Wesleyan University Athletics. Texas Wesleyan University. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  14. ^ a b "McNeely's Return to Home at Pampa". Wise County Messenger. July 30, 1953. p. 10 – via
  15. ^ a b c d e Sherrington, Kevin. "Clifton McNeely, first-ever NBA Draft selection, took his talents elsewhere". SportsDay. June 20, 2015. Retrieved on June 2, 2017.
  16. ^ "Obituary: Peggy McNeely". Donnelly's Colonial Funeral Home. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  17. ^ Texas Wesleyan University Rams Athletics - Hall of Fame Retrieved on June 1, 2017.