Detroit Mercy HOFer Frank Russell of Famous Basketball Family Dies at 72
Frank Russell, a basketball star from a famous local basketball family who played at the University of Detroit and briefly in the NBA and after his playing days became a staple of initiatives and media for the youth of Pontiac and Oakland County, has passed away.
Russell died on Monday, the university confirmed. He was 72 and recently contracted COVID-19, friends said.
He is the brother of Campy Russell, who played in Michigan, and Walker Russell, who played in Western Michigan. All three brothers were drafted into the NBA. Larry Russell also played in Detroit.
“They just had genes from that family, they were amazing in terms of basketball,” said Earl Cureton, who like Frank Russell is a member of the Detroit Mercy Athletics Hall of Fame.
“It was a family of great athletes and great people.”
Frank Russell was one of 10 children, raised by their parents in Pontiac, after moving the family from Tennessee.
A shooting guard, Frank Russell played at Pontiac Central High School and planned to play at the University of the Pacific in California until he made it to what was then known as the University of Detroit. He saw the legendary Spencer Haywood play in a game and finally chatted with Tom Villemure, Bob Calihan’s assistant at the time, and he changed his mind.
It was on for McNichols and Livernois.
“It was a good fit,” said Frank Russell.
In three seasons with Detroit – playing for Jim Harding, whom Russell once called “arguably America’s best coach,” right there with Bobby Knight – Frank Russell had 1,188 points, seventh by the time he got it. his diploma. He averaged 15.5 points his first year, 15.8 his second and 16.2 in senior.
The Titans finished their senior season 18-6, with wins over Marquette, Boston College, Xavier and Dayton. Marquette’s game was particularly mind-blowing as the team was 22-0 and placed No. 2 domestically and Detroit won 70-49. Frank Russell had all seven shots he took and had 16 points.
Frank Russell was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the third round, and he played one season and 23 games in the NBA. His best game, he scored 11 against the Detroit Pistons in Cobo. He returned to Detroit to complete his bachelor’s degree in sociology and social work.
Hen went on to become a youth counselor in his hometown, before attending Texas Southern Law School. Upon his return to Michigan, he founded the Youth Development Institute in Pontiac, chaired the Oakland County Employment Diversity Council, and worked in human resources for the county for over 30 years. In 2013, he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Pontiac. Russell also founded the Pontiac News in 2007 and The Oakland Weekly News in 2013, while remaining involved in the sport, sometimes as a volunteer coach.
“He wasn’t just a great athlete, but a great person,” Cureton said. “He was then a mentor for the young people and did a lot of great things in the Pontiac.
“This whole family was a class family.”
Campy was a first-round pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers and played 10 years in the league and is a member of the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame and the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame. Walker Russell was a fourth-round pick for the Detroit Pistons and played six years in the league. He has been a league coach and scout since his retirement. Walker’s son of the same name also played for the Pistons.
While the family legacy began with basketball – two older brothers were perhaps the most talented (“one of them could literally bank shots while playing pool,” Frank said) and were running the Pontiac playgrounds, saying if the younger Russell brothers couldn’t play, then no one would play – there were other sports as well.
Frank Russell and his siblings played soccer, basketball, horseshoes, and even ice skating. Anything outside – where her father actually grew all the food they ate.
“We had parents who worked hard and allowed us to play basketball but not just basketball,” Frank Russell once said. “We were outside the whole time.”
Frank Russell was inducted into the Titans Hall of Fame in 2020, out of a class of 15. He has been a regular at Detroit Mercy basketball games over the years.
Funeral arrangements were on hold Wednesday evening.
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