Tuesday, March 4, 2003
The Associated Press
Henry Steele, Louisiana-Monroe's third all-time scorer, No. 2 all-time leading rebounder and first true big man, is dead at the age of 52.
Steele, who had multiple sclerosis, will be buried Saturday in Richwood Memorial Gardens after a funeral at Logtown Baptist Church, eight miles south of Richwood. He died Feb. 28.
Steele, 6-8 and 235 pounds, and Richwood High teammate Andrew Harris were the first two black players at ULM, then Northeast Louisiana University, when they came to Monroe in 1968.
Steele had the ideal reply to racial taunts from other teams' fans, said Carroll High School coach Jesse Burnette, who joined the team a year after Steele and Harris.
"They'd be hollering and he'd respond by hitting another jumpshot and looking at them," Burnette said. "That was his response."
Steele finished college with 1,933 points and 1,161 rebounds. He was named to the U.S. AAU team that played in Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, and played a season of pro basketball in Mexico.
He then returned to Monroe, where he worked as a supervisor for several area retail stores until his illness forced him to quit.
Burnette, Steele's roommate at NLU, said Steele relied on intelligence as much as his size.
"He couldn't jump and he wasn't the quickest person in the world. But he was probably the smartest of all the players I ever played with," Burnette said.
Former ULM athletics director Benny Hollis, an assistant coach under Lenny Fant when Steele played for the Indians, said Calvin Natt may have been the team's best all-around player ever, but Steele was the best center.
"He was a very smart player and had great instincts. He really understood the game," said Hollis.
Steele's survivors include his wife, Peggy, and two children.
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