EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The late Lucious Jackson’s legacy lives on as the UTRGV basketball program prepares for the 60th anniversary of its only national championship.
Jackson’s No. 54 is hung up at the UTRGV Fieldhouse. He played at legacy institution Pan American College from 1961-1964.
During his three seasons as a Bronc, Jackson led Pan American to three straight NAIA tournament appearances.
In 1963, the Broncs won the national championship against Western Carolina. Jackson won tournament MVP, averaging 26.4 points and 18.6 rebounds per game.
“We did this thing as a team,” Lucious Jackson said in a 2013 interview. “I was just a part of a team, and while I wasn’t too concerned about my stats, I wanted to win.”
Jackson played during a time of segregation across the U.S. While civil rights activists advocated across the country, many African American athletes were still not accepted at colleges and universities, especially in the state of Texas.
“At the time, the Southwest Conference wouldn’t take them,” author of ‘Bronc Ball: The History of College Basketball at Pan American University, Gregory Selber said. “Wasn’t until ‘65. The Southeastern Conference, not until the late ’60s, so there were a lot of great players in Texas that had to go to the coasts.”
Instead of going to the coasts, Jackson stayed in Texas. His time at Pan American College gave the program its first and only national championship.
After graduation, Jackson helped the men’s basketball team win an Olympic gold medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
Jackson was later drafted fourth overall in the 1964 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He was selected to the NBA All-Rookie Team and the NBA All-Star Team. He averaged a career-high 14.8 points and 12.9 rebounds per game during the 1964-65 season.
Alongside Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain, Jackson won an NBA championship in the 1966-67 season. He retired after eight seasons in the association.
Jackson passed away in October 2022, at the age of 80. A two-time All-American, Jackson ranks first in program history in career field goal percentage (.544), free throws made (460) and free throws attempted (630).
While gone, his legacy lives on.
“I’d always hear the other guys say ‘I’d rather get kicked in the head by a bronco than to go up and rebound against Jack,’” a former teammate of Jackson, Marty Urand said in a 2013 interview.
“When we talk about Lucious Jackson, yeah, we won a championship, but man, we also did something in a social sense that was probably very important,” Selber said.
UTRGV will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1963 national championship squad on Feb. 9, against UT-Arlington.