Phil Sellers, the greatest men’s basketball player in Rutgers history, passed away at the age of 69 on Wednesday.he had battled a serious illness in recent months. It’s a tragic loss for his family, loved ones, friends, program and Rutgers community.
No group experienced more public highs with Sellers’ than his teammates on the 1975-1976 Final Four team. Credit to Rutgers men’s basketball for speaking with many of his former teammates and coaches to get their thoughts on the man and player that Phil Sellers was. Courtesy of the program, here are quotes on Sellers from many prominent names that were part of the best team in Rutgers history.
Eddie Jordan – All-American Point Guard
“I am totally heartbroken and deeply saddened on the passing of my former roommate and ALWAYS a teammate Phil “The Thrill” Sellers. Phil led our team, our school and the Rutgers community to the highest of highs and left a lifetime worth of wonderful memories. As much as people may remember Phil with his growl of determination and his aggressive manner of playing basketball, he was mostly a fun-loving human being with a great sense of humor. I will miss him with all my heart.”
Mike Dabney – All-American Guard
“Phil Sellers was the ultimate competitor, who I would have gone to war with on the hardwood 24/7 and 365 days of the year! R.I.P. my Co-Captain!”
Hollis Copeland – All-American Forward
”I met Phil before I thought about going to Rutgers. I saw him play against the best players in Trenton at the time. He destroyed them. I started paying attention to this guy. I made the decision to go to Rutgers because of Phil because of what I thought we could do together. In the very first practice, Phil and I got into it and we were getting ready to fight each other. Coach Young threw us out of practice and told us to go to the locker room. Phil looked at me and said, he didn’t really want to practice anyway, let’s go get something to eat. From that point on we were the best of friends”
James Bailey – All-American Forward
We all praised Phil and Dabney as our leaders. Phil was a big strong athletic guy who told you how it was. We all appreciated it. I was a freshman at 18 years old having to play. It meant a lot to have a strong leader like him. He played a special part in my life. He played a major part in the rest of my athletic career. I always thought about how tough he played on the court. Off the court, he was a teddy bear. When it was lace up the shoes he was a whole different ‘Phil The Thrill’
Abdel Anderson – Forward
Phil was one of the reasons that I decided to go to Rutgers. Phil was the best player I have ever played with. I would tell anybody that he is the G.O.A.T. all-time of Rutgers basketball. I played with some tremendous players but Phil was a head above everyone. He also taught me how to be a leader. Phil, when he told you to do something, he is going to tell you something that he would do too.
Bruce Scherer – Center
“Phil put Rutgers on the map as far as the program was concerned. He was the beginning of the program coming together and getting to the heights that he did. I can’t tell you that there isn’t a day that goes by that the team doesn’t come up in conversation. When I say 1977, people will always remember Phil and his accomplishments.”
Jeff Kleinbaum – Guard
“He was the leader of our team even as a freshman. Phil commanded respect on and off the court, he never backed down and he just wanted excellence from everyone. When he got to Rutgers he was a man amongst boys. When I first met Phil at Rutgers, he just seemed like he was so much more of everything than typical freshmen in college.”
Steve Hefele – Guard
Phil led by example. He was a warrior. I used to always think that I am glad he’s on our side. Going against him in practice was tough enough. I can remember pickup games in the old Barn, he dunked the ball so hard that the ball bounced up into the next level of seats. That game stopped and somebody had to go get the ball. He had a presence that made you feel better about yourself.
Mike Palko – Forward
Besides being the best player he was the man who took a chance and went to an unheard of place and more than put it on the map. He set every record that there is and it is hard to believe that the first guy that took that chance on Rutgers is still to this day at the top of the list. On the basketball court, he was an enforcer but he really was a gentile person. I came to see that side of him more after we were done playing. He was just a gentleman. He was just nasty to the other team. They say heroes are remembered, but legends never die, and Phil Sellers is a legend.”
Art Perry – Assistant Coach
“He’s one of my favorite players I’ve ever coached. I keep his name alive as much as I can. He was phenomenal and did a lot of great things for our team and the university. He was the kind of guy that coaches talk about in the pros and in college today that go-to kind of guy. If we were hurting as a team and we had one player to go to, Phil was our guy. He lifted everyone else up, he was extremely confident and could do everything on the basketball court.”
John McFadden – Assistant Coach
”I believe that Phil was the turning point in the program’s history. I played at Rutgers and graduated in 1971 and we were an okay program. We weren’t a premier program on the East Coast, but when we got Phil he changed everything. We not only got a great talent and great player, but we got legitimacy. All of a sudden, it became cool to go to Rutgers because Phil Sellers, a first-team All-American had gone there.”
Mike MacDonald – Former RU teammate prior to 1976 team
”I’m going to miss him, he was a great friend, great teammate, and a great player. I’ve always enjoyed being around Phil and we a lot of memories. I saw Phil do was when we played in the All-College Tournament in Oklahoma City, and he scored 43 points of the 72 points and had 33 rebounds against No. 2 USC in one game. We went 1-2 in the tournament and Phil still won Most Valuable Player.”
Brian Perkins – longtime friend and JV team member
“Our senior year we had our undefeated season and we were playing Manhattan at home and we were losing or it was a tie late in the game. I remember I was sitting under the far basket from where the play was and we needed the defensive rebound. I was nervous because Manhattan was a good team and we were in trouble. We needed a rebound and there were two hands that rose up above everyone else on the court and it was Phil. Phil just wanted it more and to me that rebound was a perfect play that salvaged our undefeated season.”
Dick Vitale – Lead recruiter for Sellers
Phil was the catalyst in our great recruiting class that played a vital factor in Rutgers having fantastic success in the 1970s that led us all the way to the Final Four. Once we were able to get Phil, we were able to get the best player in New Jersey Mike Dabney. Phil was such a fierce competitor, and he was dominant inside and outside. I am so sad to learn of his passing. To me, he is the greatest player in Rutgers hoops history.
Sincere condolences to his family, friends, teammates and anyone else who Sellers made an impact with.
Rest in Peace, Phil Sellers.
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