Len Elmore knew the complexities surrounding his brother’s legacy as a Wichita State basketball player. He understood the difficulties of including Robert Elmore, who died of a heroin overdose in 1977, in the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame.
On Monday, his accomplishments on the court finally overshadowed his death when WSU announced that Robert Elmore will be inducted, along with five others, into the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame. Elmore played center for the Shockers from 1973 to 1977 and earned All-Missouri Valley Conference honors three times.
Basketball players Jason Perez and Joe Stevens, women’s basketball player Lisa Hodgson, baseball player Todd Dreifort, football player Lynn Duncan also will join the hall of fame. The induction ceremony will take place on Jan. 18 at halftime of the men’s basketball game against Indiana State. A dinner honoring the inductees will take place at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 17 at Koch Arena.
Elmore would like to attend, if his work allows it. He said Laverne, his sister, will attend. Their parents are deceased.
“It's tremendous when you have a loved one recognized, particularly by an institution like Wichita State,” said Len Elmore, a former NBA player who broadcasts basketball for ESPN and CBS. “There’s a certain level of vindication, but also a certain level of gratitude. It's gratifying in many ways, but mostly because he was an outstanding individual.”
Robert Elmore died at 23 in Italy, where he played after the New York Nets cut him. Teammates and his brother maintain that he was not a regular drug user.
“We lost my brother at a time when there were a lot of crazy things going on in the world,” Len Elmore said. “Unfortunately, he succumbed to something that wasn't normal for him. He was a young man who made a mistake.”
Len Elmore, 61, starred at Power Memorial High in New York and Maryland before going to the NBA. While he went to college, his younger brother blossomed into a powerful player in his own right. Robert Elmore played one year of high school basketball.
“I really never knew he had the athletic ability he did,” Len Elmore said. “I was three years older than him and that was a long three years. His athleticism started to develop right around that time.”
Robert Elmore, from Jamaica, N.Y., averaged 14.1 points and 12.4 rebounds in four seasons at WSU. He is second on WSU’s career list with 1,039 rebounds, 132 blocks and an average of 12.4 rebounds. He is one of 42 players to earn first-team All-MVC honors three times. WSU greats Cleo Littleton (four times), Dave Stallworth, Warren Armstrong and Xavier McDaniel are on that list.
Perez, who played from 1996 to 2000, also took a long and difficult route to the school’s hall of fame. He was recruited by coach Scott Thompson, who was fired after the 1996 season, and played for coach Randy Smithson in sometimes tumultuous circumstances. The Shockers posted losing records his final two seasons, leading to Smithson’s dismissal.
Through it all, Perez, a 6-foot-4 guard from San Antonio, played well and fans loved his hustle and shooting ability.
He second-team All-MVC honors in 1999 and first team in 2000. He ranks sixth on WSU’s career scoring list with 1,839 points and first with 22 steals. He averaged 15.7 points and 5.6 rebounds for his career and is the only Shocker to be named Wichita Eagle team MVP four times.
“It's definitely an honor, but it's not something you can accomplish on your own,” he said. “I never really worried about it. People would say ‘I can’t believe you didn’t get in.’ I got some good advice from my dad: If you can’t control it, don’t worry about it.”
Dreifort played outfield from 1989-92 and earned second-team All-American honors from Baseball America and All-MVC honors in 1992. He played on WSU’s 1989 national champions, claiming a spot on the all-tournament team, and returned to the College World Series in 1991 and 1992.
Duncan earned All-MVC honors as a defensive tackle in 1969 and was named team MVP in 1967, 1968 and 1969.
Stevens played from 1955-58 finished his career as the program’s second-leading scorer with 1,295 points. He earned All-MVC honors in 1957.
Hodgson played from 1980-84 and received All-District V honors in 1984 and All-Gateway Conference honors in 1983 and 1984. She scored 1,424 points, which ranks seventh in program history.
Tickets to the dinner are $25. Reservations can be made at goshockers.com or by calling (316) 978-3267.