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Former NMSU coach Lou Henson to be inducted into college basketball hall of fame tonight

Former New Mexico State coach Lou Henson will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame tonight in Kansas City.

Henson is one of eight individuals, including three coaches, that make up the Class of 2015.

“I am deeply humbled to be included in this 2015 Hall of Fame Class by the National Association of Basketball Coaches,” Henson said in April.

“When I began throwing a ball of rags through that handmade hoop on the side of our barn, I never could have imagined that the game of basketball would bring me to this point in my life. I have been truly blessed in many ways.”

Joining Henson in the 2015 class are players Rolando Blackmon of Kansas State, Quinn Buckner of Indiana, John Havlicek of Ohio State, Ed Ratleff of Long Beach State, Charlie Scott of North Carolina, and coaches Don Donoher of Dayton and Ceasar “Zip” Gayles of Langston.

Henson had a 41-year career as a collegiate head coach, all at the NCAA Division I level, posting a record of 779-412 with a 65.4 winning percentage.

He’s the all-time winningest coach at both New Mexico State and Illinois, and started his career at Hardin-Simmons.

Henson, a 1955 graduate of NMSU, coached 16 years in two stints for his alma mater, posting a 289-152 record. He also tallied a 423-224 mark in 21 years at Illinois and amassed a 67-36 record in four seasons at HSU.

He is currently 11th all-time in career Division I victories, and was sixth on that list when he fully retired from the floor in January of 2005.

Henson is one of only 12 coaches to take two different schools to the Final Four.

The University of Illinois announced this summer that the basketball court at State Farm Center would from now on be called “Lou Henson Court.”

The “Lou Henson” signature on the floor is accented by his patented orange blazer and a pair of wings as a nod to the Flyin’ Illini of 1989, his greatest Fighting Illini team.

“The University of Illinois is extremely honored to recognize one of our most iconic figures with the naming of Lou Henson Court,” said Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas. “Lou has made an incredible impact and contribution to Fighting Illini basketball and the University. One of the most humble individuals you could ever know, Lou and Mary are recognized wherever they are at and treat everyone they meet with great respect. The current renovation project at State Farm Center would probably not be possible if not for the success led by Coach Henson here at Illinois. This is a fitting tribute to one of the all-time great coaches and people to be associated with Illinois.”

Henson was hired at Illinois on April 5, 1975 and he coached for 21 years at Illinois.

Henson’s Illini won the 1984 Big Ten Championship and advanced to the Elite Eight. His most successful season came with the Flyin’ Illini, who won a then-school record 31 games and advanced to the 1989 NCAA Final Four. Henson ranks fifth all-time among Big Ten coaches in both total wins (423) and conference wins (214). He will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on Nov. 20 in Kansas City.

Watch Illinois make the Lou Henson Court announcement at

More On Henson’s Career

During his Aggie career, Henson’s teams made NM State’s only Final Four appearance (1970), 19 NCAA appearances, four NIT appearances, won two conference championships and produced five all-Americans.

His greatest season at New Mexico State was the 1969-70 season that saw the Aggies post a 27-3 campaign, falling in the national semifinal to eventual champion UCLA 95-77. However, the Aggies came back to take the NCAA Third Place game, beating St. Bonaventure 79-73.

He also led Illinois to the 1989 Final Four, directing the Illini to a 31-5 record before falling to Big 10 foe and eventual national champion Michigan 83-81 in the national semifinal.

He entered the season ranked sixth all-time in games coached with 1,191 and he was the 15th fastest coach in history to reach 700 wins. Henson is also one of only eight coaches to have 20 wins or more with two different schools. Henson ranks 16th all-time on the NCAA’s list of most Division I 20-win seasons with 20, including nine in a row.

Players that Henson coached fill Halls of Fame as well, including future NBA players Sam Lacey, Charlie Criss and Jimmy Collins at NM State, and Eddie Johnson, Derek Harper, Ken Norman, Nick Anderson, Kendall Gill, Kenny Battle, Marcus Liberty, Steve Bardo and Kiwane Garris at Illinois.

“Talented student-athletes form the core of any successful team,” the humble Henson explained. “These men are truly responsible for my being here today. I can’t thank those young men enough for their hard work, dedication and loyalty to their teammates and me. Mary and I consider them part of our extended family.”

Henson first came to New Mexico State after attending Connors State (Okla.) Junior College. He was a starting guard for the Aggies under Presley Askew. Considered a defensive specialist, he averaged 5.5 points a game as a junior and nine points a contest as a senior.

He graduated NM State with a bachelor’s degree in teacher education in 1955, and added his master’s in educational administration in 1956.

Henson got his coaching start in Las Cruces, immediately landing a coaching position at Las Cruces High School after graduating. After two years as the junior varsity coach, he became the head coach. He posted a record of 145-23 and won state championship in 1959, 1960 and 1961.

He moved into the collegiate ranks at the age of 30 as the head coach at Hardin-Simmons, where he led the Cowboys to a pair of 20-win seasons, both the school record for victories in a season.

He was named the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year with the Aggies in 1975 and later was named the ESPN National Coach of the Year at Illinois in 1984 and 1993 Big 10 Conference Coach of the Year also at Illinois.

In addition to his coaching duties, Henson’s legacy includes serving as the Athletic Director at Hardin-Simmons and NMSU, as well as serving as an assistant athletic director at Illinois.

Henson was instrumental in the construction of the Pan American Center and Aggie Memorial Stadium. He also led the Aggies into membership in the Missouri Valley Conference in 1970.

Following his retirement, Henson has been honored by having the playing floor at the Pan American Center named Lou Henson Court, and by College Insider selecting the top Division I Mid-Major player as the Lou Henson Player of the Year.

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