Wil Haygood's Unlikely Hall of Fame Journey

Brandon Heath
Wil Haygood speaks at East High School in September during a book event for “Tigerland.”

Wil Haygood’s basketball career was never going to land him in a hall of fame.

Throughout high school, Haygood says he was cut multiple times from every basketball team he tried out for. But he continued attending practices anyway, until the coaches had no choice but to keep him on the roster. His persistence led to a spot on Miami University’s junior varsity team, where he played until suffering an injury his sophomore year. Only then did he know it was time to move on.

“I had started to fall in love with writing,” he says. “There was something magical in books, like when I was playing basketball.”

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This year, Haygood’s talents as a sportswriter and the author of the critically acclaimed book “Tigerland” have earned him that seemingly elusive and hallowed spot after all. In a ceremony on Aug. 24, he will receive the Felix Hoover Sports Media Award from the Greater Columbus Basketball Legends Association and be inducted into the organization’s hall of fame.

The GCBLA was founded in 2012 by Edward “Skip” Young, John Howard Jr. and Wallace Chandler. “Our purpose was to … give something back, to recognize players, coaches, officials and media members from Columbus,” says Young, the current president.

Young also will be a member of Haygood’s hall of fame class (Chandler was honored in 2015). After starring at Linden McKinley High School and Florida State University, Young was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1971. He played in the preseason alongside five future NBA Hall of Famers, including John Havlicek and Don Nelson, but failed to make the Celtics’ final roster. After his playing career, Young won three state championships as a high school girls’ basketball coach in Florida. He says the future is very bright for the GCBLA, and he hopes to create a virtual museum for the organization’s pantheon.

Since 2013, the GCBLA has inducted 39 honorees who have made their marks on Columbus basketball. Here are the stories of three.

Ed Ratleff

Leading Columbus East High School to a 25-0 record and the state championship in 1968, Ratleff’s time at East was featured in Haygood’s “Tigerland,” which detailed the school’s basketball and baseball championships amid racial strife that year. Ratleff played college basketball at California State University, Long Beach, before being drafted by the Houston Rockets sixth overall in 1973. He played five seasons in the NBA, averaging 8.3 points and four rebounds per game, and was a member of the 2015 class.

Rene Haynes

Inducted in 2017, Haynes earned District Player of the Year honors during her junior and senior years at The Wellington School. She was a three-year captain at Michigan State University, leading the Spartans to a national championship appearance in 2005. Haynes played professionally in Europe, and then became an assistant coach at Florida State and Duke. She will begin her first season as head coach of Long Island University Brooklyn in 2019.

Bob Miller

In 1973, Miller began coaching at Groveport Madison High School, compiling a 150-54 record and five league titles. However, the peak of his career came after his 1982 move to Thomas Worthington, where he coached the Cardinals to a 573-323 record, 12 league titles and three district championships. Miller, the 2003 Ohio State Coach of the Year, was inducted in 2014.


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