by Bruce Jenkins
Hal DeJulio passed away this week, and the Bay Area lost one of its most beloved basketball figures. DeJulio lived for USF, having played on Pete Newell's NIT championship team of 1949, and he will forever be known for luring Bill Russell to the Hilltop. Always in search of prospects in the neighborhoods of his native Oakland, DeJulio first saw Russell in 1952 as a skinny, 6-foot-6 senior at McClymonds High, a kid who hadn't even made the team in his junior year. Scouts hadn't given him the slightest notice, "but I wanted him," DeJulio said years ago. "I could feel the magnetism of this kid. He was raw, couldn't shoot, but he was all over the court, tenacious, tough in the clutch, man, he was there." USF coach Phil Woolpert hadn't seen Russell, but he trusted DeJulio's advice and took a chance ... The story I'll remember just as vividly about DeJulio: During his collegiate days, he became fascinated with Don Lofgran, a kid on the Oakland playgrounds who wound up being a key member of the '49 team. Lofgran was a beer-drinking roughneck off the court - when DeJulio first told Newell about Lofgran, he was in jail - but he had a radical, one-handed jump shot that was pure innovation for its time. DeJulio knew the risk of his involvement, saying. "I guess I was crazy for talking to him about USF, because he was going to take my job and put me on the bench. But he was just that good." As was Hal DeJulio, as a man.
DeJulio, man who 'discovered' Bill Russell, dead at 83
By Jeff Faraudo
Hal DeJulio would admit he was not a great basketball player, but he knew one when he saw one.
More than a half-century ago, while working as an unpaid assistant coach at Oakland High School, DeJulio saw a player with McClymonds High who would change the game.
"I saw Russell's head rise above the multitudes ... I couldn't believe it," DeJulio recalled during a 2006 interview about the first day he saw basketball star Bill Russell.
DeJulio, credited with "discovering" Russell and helping recruit to him to University of San Francisco, died of a heart attack Saturday at the age of 83.
A resident of Concord, DeJulio was a reserve player on USF's 1949 NIT championship team and is a member of the USF Hall of Fame.
His most lasting contributions to USF were as an unofficial recruiter, especially in the East Bay, where he had played at old University High in Oakland.
He convinced coach Phil Woolpert to sign Russell, who had only modest success as a high school player but would lead USF to back-to-back NCAA titles and the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA crowns.
"I knew once he got him in there and saw him run and jump, he'd see he had a man from Mars â€” something he'd never seen," DeJulio said of his selling job to Woolpert. "He had incredible timing, speed, and he was intelligent right from the start. Russell's the greatest basketball player who ever lived."
DeJulio also through the years helped convince All-Americans
Don Lofgran and Mike Farmer to attend USF, along with future NBA players Joe Ellis, Eric Fernsten and Erwin Mueller.
"Hal was the most energetic, enthusiastic person I had ever met coming out of high school,'' Farmer, a one-time Richmond High star, told USF this week. "He convinced me USF was the only place I could possibly go and play basketball and get an education, and he was right. Hal was a great guy."
DeJulio remained involved with the game all his life. "He was playing ball against 19-year-olds at age 80,'' said his grandson, Gregg Beall of Lodi.