UNO basketball legend Wilbur Holland dead at age 70

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Wilbur Holland

Privateer Athletics Mourns the Loss of Hall of Famer Wilbur Holland

NEW ORLEANS – University of New Orleans Athletics is heartbroken by the loss of Privateer Hall of Famer Wilbur Holland at the age of 70 on Saturday night in Columbus, Ga.

Nicknamed “Phelps,” Wilbur Holland was born on November 8, 1951, in Phenix, Alabama to Ida Hill and Virgil Holland.

At South Girard High School, Holland was a standout two-sport athlete excelling in both baseball and basketball. In his breakout senior year, he led his team in scoring and was team captain and MVP.

From high school, Holland attended Morristown Junior College in Tennessee. He finished his final season at Morristown as third in the national scoring standings for junior college with a 29.9 per game average. He led his team in rebounds with an 18.7 average, was named MVP, and hit .404 for the baseball season solidifying his place as best all-around athlete at Morristown. He also made the dean’s list.

In the fall of 1973, the left-handed shooter made the move to the Lakefront, letting it be known that he chose to attend UNO (known as LSUNO at that time) because of the “beautiful scenery,” and that he didn’t “like too much cold weather”—ironically, he was known to be as cool as ice on the court. In only his first eight games of the season, he kept his scoring average at 30 points per game and ranked as high as second in the national scoring statistics.

Holland’s offensive prowess and ability to stay confident and calm in high stake moments quickly established him as an invaluable piece to the Privateer puzzle. Newspaper headlines read: “Cool Holland Leads LSUNO Past Lions, 70-67,” and “Holland is Hero for ‘NO.”

During his junior season UNO head coach Ron Greene gave high praise for his high scoring guard saying: “Wilbur has the potential to be a great one.” Coach Greene’s words would hold true for Holland’s decorated career.

By his senior year, Holland was the unanimous choice of his teammates and coaches for team captain. He paced the Privateers to 11 consecutive wins to start the season while maintaining a 30 PPG average through eight of those games. It was no wonder he was known as “Mr. Wonderful” to Privateer fans.

Holland led the Privateers that season in scoring averaging 25.2 points per game mark. He finished among the top ten scorers in the nation and that year set a new University of New Orleans single season mark for total points with 756. Holland led the Privateers to an outstanding 44-16 mark during his two seasons. A pure, left-handed shooter, Holland connected on 47% of his field goal attempts and his Privateer career scoring total still ranks in the top 10 in UNO history, with 1,346 points. His career 22.8 scoring average ranks in the top 10 all-time at UNO. He shot 84.1% for his career at the free throw line. He averaged 25.2 points (9th in nation) in 1975 and 20.3 points in 1974.

He led UNO to two straight appearances in the NCAA Division II Final Four and was selected to the Final Four All-Tournament team in 1975. He was also a two-time MVP of the NCAA Division II South Regional tournament. Holland earned second-team All-America honors his senior year from the National Association of Basketball Coaches and was a third-team choice by Basketball Weekly. He also was a third-team All-American by the Associated Press. He was also a two-time All-Louisiana selection.

Privateer Head Coach Mark Slessinger shared: “Wilbur Holland is one of the greats to ever put on the Blue and Silver. He was a Hall of Famer in every category. Our team, staff, and family offer our sincere condolences to his family and loved one.”

Upon graduating, Holland was selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the fifth round of the 1975 NBA Draft and became the first Privateer to play in the NBA. In his single season with the Hawks, he played in 33 games and averaged 5.8 PPG. Within his four years in the NBA, Holland played three of those as a starter for the Chicago Bulls. In his four-year NBA career, he scored 3,760 points, averaging 13.6 points per game, shot 45.2% from the field and 79.9% from the charity stripe. He went on to play four successful seasons in Europe before retiring from basketball and returning to his home state of Georgia 1984.

In 1990, Holland was inducted in the New Orleans Athletics Hall of Fame and in 2002, he was inducted into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame.


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