KNIGHTDALE — Make room, Larry Bird.
Art Musselman, a Knightdale resident and former standout on the hardwood, will be inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, March 24.
“It’s the greatest award or recognition anyone from Indiana can ever get, as far as basketball is concerned,” said Chris May, the executive director of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. “Anyone who knows how in love Indiana is with its basketball knows how special an occasion this is.
“For Art to be included, I think it is an indication of his strengths as a player and significant accomplishments as a coach.”
Musselman, 75, credits his faith for the many honorable distinctions he has received since his playing and coaching days came to an end.
“God has just blessed me with so many wonderful things, and this is just another way He has touched my life,” Musselman said of his upcoming induction. “It wasn’t something that I could have dreamed of.
“This is probably, to me, the most prestigious honor – going into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.”
The Glory Days
After graduating from Huntington High School, in Huntington, Ind., Musselman earned a scholarship to The Citadel in Charleston, S.C., where he played under head coach Norm Sloan in the late 1950s. Playing during what was known as the Bulldogs’ “Blitz Kids” era, Musselman was a three-time all-state selection and was the state of South Carolina’s Most Outstanding Player in 1957.
A member of The Citadel Hall of Fame (Class of ’81), Musselman graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,506 points – a mark that stood for a quarter-century. His jersey No. 33 was retired in 2009 – the first such honor in the 108-year history of the program.
“The reason that this nice thing is happening for me is because of my experience at The Citadel, for the most part,” Musselman said, reflecting on his glory days. “That group of young guys allowed me to receive this honor.”
That group consisted of seven of the first scholarship athletes The Citadel basketball program ever had, according to Musselman.
“We became known as the ‘Blitz Kids,’” Musselman said, “and we established a pretty good program.”
How Sloan found Musselman and subsequently offered him one of seven valuable scholarships remains a mystery.
“I came from a little country town in Indiana, and how he came to find out about me I have no idea – we never discussed it,” Musselman said. “It just kind of came out of the blue, and it was the only offer I had. I needed to be there, though, because the restrictive environment helped me focus on studies and basketball.”
A successful partnership
It turned out Musselman and Sloan would always do great things when working in unison.
In his post-playing career, after coaching stints with Presbyterian College (’63-68) and Clemson (’68-70), Musselman teamed up with Sloan yet again – this time as an assistant to Sloan at North Carolina State from 1970-74. Musselman helped Sloan claim an astounding 57 victories as a player at The Citadel, but none compared to the NCAA National Championship they captured together with the Wolfpack in 1974.
“I owe him everything that’s happened in my basketball life from ’56 up until this point,” Musselman said of Sloan, who is also a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Indiana native made North Carolina his home following his retirement from coaching. Musselman remained active in the community through his work with Wendell Parks and Recreation, where he did outdoor maintenance.
“He is the most pleasant person to be around,” said Kelley Connolly, the athletic programs supervisor for the Wendell department. “We are honored just to know Mr. Art … He loves the kids, loves the sports. Just a great person.”
The last 26 years of Musselman’s life have been spent in Knightdale. He remembers his time in Indiana fondly, though, even though he hasn’t called the Hoosier State home in nearly six decades.
“I call (Knightdale) my home now,” Musselman said. “I cherish my time in Indiana because it gave me my start and I still have dear friends there. A big part of what we do here brings a lot of joy to my life.
“Now, I’m a North Carolina native, and it’s been that way for almost 40 years.”