LAWRENCE, Kan. — LaVannes Squires, the first Black men’s basketball player at Kansas and a member of the Jayhawks’ 1952 national title team, died last week in Pasadena, California. He was 90.
The school announced in a statement Saturday that he died Feb. 19. No cause was given.
Squires was born in Missouri but grew up in Wichita, Kansas, where he played high school hoops for eventual Hall of Fame coach Ralph Miller. He wound up lettering in three seasons for Kansas coach Phog Allen, winning the Big Seven regular-season title each year and helping the Jayhawks win their first national championship in nearly 30 years.
“LaVannes was a true trailblazer for Kansas men’s basketball,” Jayhawks athletic director Jeff Long said. “He left an indelible impression from the first day he stepped on this campus in 1950, and continued to be a great ambassador for KU throughout his life. Not only did LaVannes break down the walls of color at KU, he did so with great success in the banking industry for many decades after his graduation.”
Among others, Squires paved the way for Wilt Chamberlain, who played for the Jayhawks from 1956-58 before embarking on a Hall of Fame career in the NBA. He also laid the groundwork for such standouts as Bud Stallworth, who became a first-round pick of the Seattle Supersonics, and JoJo White, who went on to become a seven-time NBA All-Star.
“LaVannes Squires is important to the history of this program,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He paved the way and opened doors for many to follow. In large part, he is even more important to the history of college basketball because if he hadn’t come here, I doubt that Wilt would have come here. And that helped shape the landscape of the history of our game.
“It would never get as good as it is now,” Self said, “without somebody like LaVannes Squires.”
After his playing career, Squires worked for Look Magazine in Des Moines, Iowa, then became a successful businessman in the banking industry. He proceeded to start a Los Angeles-based real estate company, and he continued to dabble in real estate and trading opportunities until his passing.