Western Kentucky great Jim McDaniels dies. His Toppers whipped the Cats in 1971.

Western Kentucky’s Jim McDaniels battled Jacksonville’s Artis Gilmore.
Western Kentucky’s Jim McDaniels battled Jacksonville’s Artis Gilmore.

Jim McDaniels, a basketball legend in the state of Kentucky, died Wednesday evening in Bowling Green at age 69.

McDaniels, a 7-foot center who starred at Western Kentucky University, was Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball at Allen County High School in 1967.

McDaniels was a charter member of the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame. And, he is a member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame and the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame.

“Jim McDaniels was a legendary and iconic figure in the annals of Western Kentucky basketball,” WKU Director of Athletics Todd Stewart said in a news release. “His Hall of Fame accomplishments resulted in the most successful period in our program’s rich history and favorably impacted the Hilltopper Nation and college basketball fans throughout the nation. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim and his family. RIP Big Mac.”

McDaniels is probably best known to University of Kentucky fans for helping engineer the worst NCAA Tournament defeat in Wildcats history.

On March 18, 1971, in the Mideast Region semifinals in Athens, Ga., McDaniels scored 35 points in a 107-83 demolition of Coach Adolph Rupp’s UK squad. The game was the long-awaited first-ever matchup between the two schools. The Hilltoppers went on to play in the NCAA Final Four that year.

McDaniels finished his WKU career with 2,238 points, which ties for the all-time program record.

McDaniels also ranks first in WKU history in career field goals (935), career scoring average (27.6 points per game) and double-doubles (74), second in rebounding average (13.1 per game) and field goals attempted (1,763), fourth in total rebounds (1,118) and ninth in made free throws (368).

McDaniels, a consensus All-American, was named Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year in 1969-70 and 1970-71 and was an All-OVC selection in each of his three varsity seasons.

The Hilltoppers went a combined 62-19 during McDaniels’ time with the program under head coach John Oldham.

McDaniels is one of eight former WKU players to have their jersey retired and hung in the rafters at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Jim McDaniels (44) finished his WKU career with 2,238 points, which ties for the all-time program record. WKU Athletics

Before he arrived in Bowling Green, McDaniels averaged nearly 40 points per game as a senior at Allen County High School.

After his college career, he played professionally in both the NBA and ABA from 1971-78.

McDaniels continued to live in Bowling Green and remained around the Hilltoppers program through the years, addressing the team on numerous occasions and coaching a squad of former WKU stars against a team of ex-Kentucky players in an all-star exhibition at Diddle Arena in 2011.

He is survived by his wife, Carolyn; his sons Shannon, of Charlottesville, Va., and Eskias (Crystal Marie), of Los Angeles; and his daughter, Lydia Britton, of Charlotte, N.C.

Funeral arrangements for McDaniels are being finalized.