ISU hoops pioneer John Crawford passes away

AMES (ISU Sports) – Iowa State basketball pioneer John Crawford, the school’s first African-American basketball player, passed away over the weekend. He was 77 years old.

A native of New York City, Crawford was a key player in Iowa State’s rise to national prominence from 1955-58, competing on the Cyclones’ 1955 Big Seven Holiday Tournament title team and helping ISU achieve its first national ranking.

As a sophomore in 1955-56, Crawford teamed with Cyclone All-American Gary Thompson to help ISU win a then-school-record 18 games. Crawford averaged 12.6 points and 9.7 rebounds that season.

“John was the first African-American to play basketball at Iowa State, but we never saw it that way. He was just one of us,” Thompson said. “He was a tremendous teammate and a great player. I stayed in contact with John throughout the years. I will miss him dearly.”

The following season (1956-57), ISU achieved its highest ranking in school history (No. 3 in the AP poll) and defeated No.1-ranked Kansas (39-37), the school’s only win over a top-ranked opponent. 

Crawford capped off his senior season (1957-58) by earning First-Team All-Big Eight honors, averaging 14.1 points and 9.1 rebounds. He ended his outstanding career with 913 points and a then-school-record 658 boards. 

He was inducted into Iowa State’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.