Former Fulton and Tennessee basketball star Bill Justus dies at 76



Remembering Bill Justus: Former Fulton and Tennessee Basketball Star Passes Away at 76

breaking news knoxville, Fulton and tennessee basketball players, justin gainey, knoxville news sentinel print edition, tennessee football coverage

Bill Justus, a beloved sports icon celebrated for his extraordinary career at Fulton High School and his subsequent achievements as an All-American guard for Tennessee basketball, passed away on October 17 at his residence near Nashville, as confirmed by the University of Tennessee. He was 76.

Fulton basketball coach Jody Wright paid tribute to the late legend on social media, remarking, “Fulton High School and UT lost a legend last night. Bill Justus was an All American at both schools and loved both of those places. Bill was a hero to my generation as we listened to John Ward on the radio as he called ‘Justus from 20…Bottom! He was a true gentleman.”

Before graduating from Fulton in 1965, Bill Justus had already established himself as an all-state football player in 1964 and an all-state basketball player in 1964 and 1965. His prowess extended to football, earning him an All-America honorable mention in 1964, while his talents on the basketball court garnered him All-America recognition in 1965.

Justus secured a football scholarship at the University of Tennessee and commenced his collegiate journey by playing on the freshman team in 1965. The following year, he transitioned to focus solely on basketball and emerged as a three-year starter for the Vols. In his senior year of 1968-69, he was honored to serve as the team’s captain.

Standing at 6 feet 1 inch and weighing 175 pounds, Justus played a pivotal role in leading Tennessee to an SEC championship in 1966-67. He was further recognized as a first-team All-SEC player in both 1967-68 and 1968-69. One of the defining moments of his career came during the SEC title-clinching victory against Mississippi State in 1967 when, in the third overtime, Justus made two crucial free throws, sealing the win for the Vols in Starkville, Mississippi. The legendary broadcaster John Ward immortalized the moment with his unforgettable call.

Credit By

Reflecting on that moment, Justus recalled, “After I made both shots and they threw up a hope shot at the other end, John’s call was, ‘The SEC championship, wrap it in orange and white, send it to Gibbs Hall, care of Billy Justus.'”

Bill Justus was celebrated for his exceptional free-throw shooting skills, particularly during the 1968-69 season when he achieved an impressive free-throw accuracy of 90.5%, the highest in the league that year. He concluded his collegiate career as the second-best free-throw shooter in Tennessee history, with an 85% accuracy rate (338-of-398). Over the course of his career, he scored 1,236 points and averaged 15.1 points per game.

Post-graduation, Justus was drafted in the 10th round of the 1969 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers and also by the Denver Nuggets in the ABA Draft. Remarkably, the Dallas Cowboys selected him in the 15th round of the NFL Draft. Following his playing career, Justus became a mentor, teaching ball-handling and shooting skills for Converse at coaches’ clinics and basketball camps nationwide. He also worked as an analyst for the Vol Radio Network.

Expressing his enthusiasm for the role, Justus once said, “It’s terrific and I love it. I get to be around a different generation of players and find out what they’re like. Being around them is fun. They’re very receptive. They don’t know the history as far back as I go, but they’re a great group of guys.”

Bill Justus was honored for his contributions to sports by being inducted into the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. Even after the age of 30, he continued to compete in tennis, securing numerous amateur USTA tournament championships.

Details regarding his funeral arrangements are pending.

Toyloy Brown III is a sports reporter for Knox News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @TJ3rd_.


Leave a Comment