BYU will retire the jerseys of two all-time-great Cougar basketball players during the BYU men’s basketball game against Portland on Saturday.
Sixty-two years after winning the 1951 NIT Championship, Mel Hutchins (14) and Roland Minson (11) will be honored together. Hutchins and Minson will be the third and fourth men’s basketball players to have their jerseys retired, following Danny Ainge and Kresimir Cosic.
“I didn’t know how many they had,” Minson said. “I assumed they had quite a few. I was very surprised that there were only two retired jerseys. It made it all the more special.”
Having a jersey retired at BYU is no easy feat for any athlete. According to BYU standards, an athlete must reach certain requirements in order to have their jersey retired.
“The individual must have been a First Team All-American; a recipient of a major national award (ie Davey Obrien, Heisman, John Wooden Award etc.); a university graduate; achieved significant athletic, civic or religious accomplishments after graduation from BYU; a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or other religious affiliation and a 15-year period must have past since the individual finished his or her athletic career at BYU.”
Hutchins had an unbelievable career as a Cougar and went on to achieve great things in the NBA. At BYU, he set the BYU rebounding record (900 rebounds) in just two seasons of recorded rebounding statistics until Kresimir Cosic broke the record in 1973.
However, Hutchins still holds the record for rebounds in a single season with 471 (12.7 per game). In his four years as a Cougar, Hutchins’ team went on to win the conference championship three times and won the 1951 NIT Championship, which was considered equal to, if not better than, the NCAA Tournament at that time.
“It was the kind of thing you dreamed about, but you don’t really have those kinds of things happen to you very often,” Hutchins said of his career at BYU. “It was a dream, and we had a great coach in Stan Watts. He’s up in the ceilings also, already.”
As a professional basketball player in the NBA, Hutchins was drafted as the number-one pick in 1951 and went on to earn the Rookie of the Year award in 1952. He led the NBA in rebounding during his rookie season with a total of 880 rebounds (13.3 per game) and held the NBA single-season record for rebounds for a player 6’6″ or under until Charles Barkley broke the record in 1987. Mel received a random call soon after his record was broken.
“Charles called me and said, ‘I’m calling you to tell you I broke your record,'” Hutchins said. “And I said, ‘I read about it and it took you 40 years to do it.’ And we laughed about that.”
Hutchins is still an avid follower of the BYU men’s basketball team and keeps up with the NBA, though he isn’t in favor of the 30 different teams today and the amount of money they’re making.
“We didn’t make quite that much money,” Hutchins said with a laugh.
Hutchins made the most out of his seven-year career in the NBA, as he was chosen for five All-Star selections (1953, 1954, 1956, 1967, 1958) and led three NBA teams to Western Division titles. In his seven-year tenure, Hutchins finished his NBA career with 4,851 points, 4,186 rebounds and 1,298 assists.
Minson enjoyed playing alongside Hutchins and said he was a star on such a dominant team.
“He was maybe the most unselfish player I have ever played with,” Minson said. “If he played the whole game, he could’ve averaged 20 points, easily. But what he chose to do was become the best rebounder in the whole world. He was put on the star player of the other team, and he just shut him down. He went on to be the rookie of the year in the pros. He’s just an outstanding player. When we played together, he did his job and I did my job.”
During his time at BYU, Minson was always a fan favorite. He was also considered “one of the cleverest floor men in the game, and his deadly shooting from any position (was) enough to take the heart out of the opposition,” according to the 1950–51 BYU Basketball Media Guide.
Minson was BYU’s all-time leading scorer with 1,407 career points for 22 seasons, until Cosic broke the record in 1973, and held the BYU single-season record for points with 619 for 27 seasons before Ainge broke it in 1978. He was co-captain of the 1951 NIT Championship team with Hutchins and was voted the MVP of the tournament. The legacy Minson left as a Cougar is something he can never forget.
“Until I went on a mission with my wife later on in life, it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Minson said. “We just happened to have people come together, who were unselfish, people coming in as substitutes who probably could’ve been first string on some other teams. We supported each other, we liked each other. It’s a forever kind of memory.”
He couldn’t clearly put into words what it was like playing for BYU and finished with, “It was awesome.”
Following the season as the 1951 NIT Champions, Minson was selected as the No. 15 overall pick by the New York Knicks but put his basketball career aside to serve in the Navy during the Korean War. When he returned from active duty, the Knicks offered Minson a contract, but once again he put his basketball career to the side and worked in the banking industry.
Although he loved playing basketball at BYU, Minson wanted to become more than a pro-basketball player— he was more than just a great athlete.
“I realized when I was playing basketball for BYU, I was kind of in an unreal world,” Minson said. “I was in a situation where everybody seemed to know me and looked up to me and watched me. I did my very best to not let it get to me and be one of those stuck-up, proud athletes. So I focused on that a lot. I thought, ‘When I get out of college, I’ve got 60 to 70 more years to be a person of worth.’ And so I made myself shift away from focusing on basketball and focusing on being a good husband and being a good father and being successful and having enough money to raise my family comfortably and focused on doing my church activities.”
Because Minson couldn’t serve an LDS mission (only one male was chosen to go per ward) due to his service in the Navy, he dreamed of going on a mission later on in his life.
“I was talking to (my wife) about it; as soon as we could retire, I wanted to go on a mission, and that’s what we did,” Minson said. “We went on a mission to England.”
Hutchins and Minson took different paths after their departure from BYU, but their legacy as Cougars will live on and will now be remembered when fans look up on the rafters of the Marriott Center.
The ceremony will take place at the Marriott Center during the men’s basketball game vs. Portland on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.