John Barnhill, R.I.P.

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John Barnhill, R.I.P.

Postby rlee » Tue Nov 12, 2013 3:57 pm ... sses-away/

by Mark Monteith

John Barnhill, a member of the Pacers’ first ABA championship team in 1970, died on Monday in southern California.

Barnhill was a 31-year-old, seven-year veteran of the NBA when he joined the Pacers for the 1969-70 season. A 6-1 guard, he averaged 11.4 points that season as a part-time starter.

Barnhill, who was born in Evansville but grew up in Illinois, attended Tennessee State University, where he was a member of NAIA championship teams in 1957, ’58 and ’59. He finished his career there as the school’s second- all-time leading scorer behind teammate Dick Barnett, a Gary native.

Barnhill began his professional career in the American Basketball League, then played in the NBA from 1962-69 for St. Louis, Detroit, Baltimore and San Diego. He played 77 games for the Pacers in their first championship season, and ranked second on the team in assists. He played 43 games the following season, averaging 5 points, before he was released. He finished that season with Denver, then returned to the Pacers for 19 games in the 1971-72 season.

Barnhill later worked as an assistant coach in the NBA for Bill Sharman with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Barnhill lobbed old-fashioned one-handed shots from the perimeter, and not very accurately. He was just a 23 percent three-point shooter during his time with the Pacers, but coach Bob “Slick” Leonard recalled a game in Miami on Dec. 17, 1980 when he showed off a timely shooting touch. The Pacers trailed by two points in the final seconds, and Leonard started to design a play that would get a shot to force overtime. The players begged for a three-pointer that would end the game, however, and Barnhill wound up lofting a long three-pointer from beyond the top of the key for the 101-100 win.

There wasn’t a guy within 20 feet of him,” Leonard said. “We just walked out of there.

“Johnny was a good team man, a good defensive player, and a nice guy.”
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