Johnny Neumann, a prolific scorer at Overton High School in Memphis in the late 1960s who later led the nation in scoring at Ole Miss, died Tuesday in Oxford, Mississippi, after a battle with cancer. He was 68 years old.
Hodges Funeral Service in Oxford confirmed it is handling arrangements for the former basketball star and coach and a reference to his death is on its website. No details on services were immediately available.
During the late 1960s, Neumann and Melrose’s Larry Finch were the two star high school players in the city. The two teams eventually met in the 1969 city championship game that had generated so much interest the game was moved to the Mid-South Coliseum to accommodate the demand for tickets.
At Ole Miss, Neumann led the nation in scoring his sophomore year with a 40.1 average. He left after that season to sign with the Memphis franchise in the American Basketball Association. He had multiple stops in the ABA, from Memphis to the Utah Stars to the Virginia Squires. He later played 83 games in the NBA before a short career in Europe.
“We lost one of the all-time greats in Ole Miss history in Johnny Neumann,” Ole Miss basketball head Kermit Davis said on the team’s website. “Johnny had one of the most prolific scoring seasons in college basketball during the 1970-71 season. Our thoughts and prayers are with Johnny and his family. Thanks for the great memories!”
After his playing days, Neumann coached a number of teams overseas.
But the legend of Neumann began during high school when he played for Overton and the then-Rebels faced Melrose, led by Finch and Ronnie Robinson. Neumann was recruited by schools around the country, including Kentucky under Adolph Rupp.
Eventually, Neumann signed with Ole Miss. The Finch-Neumann showdown would extend into their freshmen seasons. Freshmen weren’t allowed to play for the varsity then, so a junior varsity game between the Rebels and Tigers put the pair on the court against each other again.
Neumann scored 44 points, while Finch finished with 32 as Ole Miss won the game 103-95.
In Neumann’s one season as a varsity player at Ole Miss, he not only averaged 40.1 points a game, but still holds five of the top scoring games in Rebels history. That included 63 points against LSU and 60 against Baylor. He had five games that season in which he scored at least 50 points.
The 6-foot-6 forward’s single season with the Rebels still earned him a spot on the school’s All-Century team.