Ohio col­lege bas­ket­ball player was among sport’s best scor­ers

CLARENCE ‘BEVO’ FRAN­CIS

Los Angeles Times - - OBITUARIES - As­so­ci­ated Press Times staff writer Steve Mar­ble con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Clarence “Bevo” Fran­cis, who scored 113 points for a small Ohio col­lege in a 1954 game and was one of col­lege bas­ket­ball’s great scor­ers, has died. He was 82.

Fran­cis died Wed­nes­day at his south­ern Ohio home af­ter a lengthy ill­ness, the Uni­ver­sity of Rio Grande an­nounced on its web­site.

Fran­cis’ land­mark game came against Michi­gan’s Hills­dale Col­lege on Feb. 2, 1954, and put tiny Rio Grande Col­lege on the map. The school in south­east­ern Ohio, now called the Uni­ver­sity of Rio Grande, had less than 100 stu­dents at the time.

“Bevo’s le­gacy, at least in part, is that ded­i­ca­tion, de­ter­mi­na­tion and heart can change the world,” Michelle John­ston, the uni­ver­sity pres­i­dent, said on the school’s web­site. Fran­cis’ ex­ploits “charted a course for our in­sti­tu­tion that led us out of a sea of chal­lenges to­ward a pos­i­tive fu­ture.”

A year ear­lier, the 6-feet-9 cen­ter scored 116 points against Ken­tucky’s Ash­land Ju­nior Col­lege, a record that was retroac­tively erased af­ter the NCAA said it would rec­og­nize only games played against four-year, de­gree­grant­ing in­sti­tu­tions.

His 113 points set a record that was bro­ken in 2012 by Grin­nell Col­lege’s Jack Tay­lor, who had 138 points.

Dur­ing the 1952-53 sea­son, Fran­cis led his school to a 39-0 record. In 1954, Fran­cis av­er­aged 48.0 points a game.

Fran­cis played two sea­sons at Rio Grande, fin­ish- ing with 3,272 points and pow­er­ing the team to a 60-7 record.

He scored 50 or more points 14 times in his 39 games against four-year col­leges, the school said.

Fran­cis was part of a barn­storm­ing team af­ter col­lege and was later drafted by the Philadel­phia War­riors of the NBA but chose not to play.

The school said he spent his fi­nal play­ing years in the Eastern League be­fore re­turn­ing home in 1962 to work in a steel mill.

He was laid off from the steel mill in 1982 and told The Times in a 1985 in­ter­view that jobs in eastern Ohio were dif­fi­cult to find and that he hunted deer and rab­bits to put food on the ta­ble. Fran­cis said he didn’t dwell on his de­ci­sion to pass on an NBA ca­reer.

“Peo­ple ask me about the NBA and I just fig­ure there’s no use think­ing about it,” he said in the in­ter­view. “What’s done is done.”

Fran­cis en­tered the Na­tional Assn. of In­ter­col­le­giate Ath­let­ics Hall of Fame in 2012.

“Bevo was ac­tive within our pro­gram over the years and al­ways went out of his way to sup­port or pro­vide any­thing that was needed,” Rio Grande bas­ket­ball coach Ken French said. “Bevo meant much more to us than be­ing col­lege bas­ket­ball’s most pro­lific scorer.”

Fran­cis, who was born in Ham­mondsville, Ohio, is sur­vived by his wife, Jean; son Frank; and daugh­ter Marge.

SHOOT­ING STAR

Clarence “Bevo” Fran­cis, No. 32, had a 113-point game for Ohio’s Rio Grande Col­lege. Drafted by the NBA’s Philadel­phia War­riors, he chose not to play.

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