Bobby Wilkerson Biography
Bob Wilkerson is an American former basketball player born in Anderson, Indiana that played for Indiana University. Bobby Wilkerson was a guard for the Indiana Hoosiers for three seasons between 1973 and 1976. The Anderson, Ind. native played at Anderson Madison Heights High School where he was a three year starter and won multiple sectional and regional championships. He was a state runner-up his senior season in 1972 and awarded as a First Team All-State selection. In his time with the Hoosiers under coach Bob Knight, Wilkerson played three seasons and was a starter on the 1976 Undefeated National Championship team. The former Hoosier played professionally for seven seasons in the NBA from 1976 to 1983 where he played for Seattle, Denver, Chicago, and Cleveland. Bobby retired in 1983 after his final season with the Cavaliers. Years after his retirement, Wilkerson was named to the 1997 Indiana Silver Anniversary team, inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame (2012), and the Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame (2015).
- Name: Bob Wilkerson
- Position: Guard
- Nationality: USA
- Age: 67 years old
- Birthday: August 15, 1954
- Hometown: Anderson, Indiana
- High School: Madison Heights High School
- Height: 6’6″ (198 cm)
- Weight: 195 lb (88.4 kg)
- Seasons: 3 (1973-1974, 1974-1975, 1975-1976)
- Jersey: #20
- NBA Draft: 1976 / Round 1 / Pick 11th Overall (Seattle Supersonics)
- Professional Career: Seattle Supersonics (1976-1977), Denver Nuggets (1977-1980), Chicago Bulls (1980-1981), Cleveland Cavaliers (1981-1983)
Player Accolades and Awards
- 3x IHSAA Sectional Champion (1970-72)
- 2x IHSAA Regional Champion (1971-72)
- 1972 IHSAA State Runner-Up
- 1972 AP 1st Team All-State
- Leading Scorer 1972 Indiana-Kentucky All-Star Games
- Member of 1974 Collegiate Commissioners Association Title Squad
- 1976 National Champion
- Member of 1997 Indiana Silver Anniversary Team
- 2012 Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame Inductee
- 2015 Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee
Bobby Wilkerson High School Career
Prior to coming to Indiana University, Bobby Wilkerson played his high school basketball career at Madison Heights High School in Anderson, Indiana. He was a three year starter for the Pirates and was no stranger to playing for championships. The former Pirate won three sectional championships as a player, defeating Anderson back-to-back years in 1970 and 1971 and then against Alexandria in 1972. Bobby was a part of two regional championship teams as well in 1971 and 1972 when Madison Heights defeated Carmel and Blackford respectively. As a senior in 1972, Wilkerson and the Pirates appeared in the state finals where they were defeated by Gary West and had to settle for a runner-up finish.
Along with the multiple sectional and regional championships, Bobby received other accolades for his athletic performance. He was awarded to the AP 1st Team All-State with a stat line of 18.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. His talent led him to be the leading scorer in the 1972 Indiana-Kentucky All-Star games, where the best players from the two states competed in two games against each other. Wilkerson was accumulating awards years after his high school season was over. He was honored with being a member of the 1997 Silver Anniversary Team, which recognizes excellent high school senior players from 25 years before. In 2012, the Anderson native was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame for his outstanding high school career.
Bobby Wilkerson Seasons with the Hoosiers
23-5 (12-2 Big Ten)
🏆 CCA Tournament Champions
31-1 (18-0 Big Ten)
🏅 NCAA Elite Eight
16-11 (11-7 Big Ten)
Indiana University Career Statistics
Bobby Wilkerson Indiana University Career
After performing at a high level on the high school level, Bobby Wilkerson decided to play for Coach Bobby Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers. Wilkerson’s first season playing for the Hoosiers was the 1973 season on a talented roster consisting the likes of Steve Green, Scott May, and Quinn Buckner. As a sophomore that season, Bobby was a role player off the bench playing 14.3 minutes per game coming off the bench and averaged 3.6 points per game. The scoring may have not been there with his minutes per game but Wilkerson played solid defense in Coach Knight’s aggressive man-to-man defensive system.
This Hoosier team went on to a 23-5 record and won first place in the Big Ten. However, the Hoosiers did not appear in the NCAA tournament but instead won the National Commissioners Invitational Tournament. The NCIT was an eight team playoff that was created by the NCAA so it could “kill” the NIT which the NCAA did not own at the time. Indiana defeated USC in the 1974 championship game by a score of 85-60. After that victory, Wilkerson was awarded as a member of the Collegiate Commissioners Association Title Squad.
Bobby’s production doubled during his junior season in Bloomington. He saw his minutes increase to 27 per game and an increase to his scoring at 7.2 points per game. The 1974-75 roster consisted of the same top players in Green, May, and Buckner but Bobby improved in the offseason and earned more time on the court. Wilkerson and the Hoosiers saw themselves at the top of the Big Ten for the second year in a row with an 18-0 conference record. Coach Knight’s team was then riding high with a 29-0 overall record entering the NCAA Tournament.
Wilkerson’s stat line increased in his first appearance in the NCAA tournament. Indiana played in three games and Bobby averaged 10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.3 points per game while shooting 41 percent from the field. He recorded two double-doubles that postseason with 10 points and 10 assists against Oregon State and 14 points and 11 rebounds against Kentucky. Indiana was on a roll with a 31-0 record heading in to the Mideast Regional Final against the SEC champion Kentucky Wildcats. The Cream ‘n Crimson lost a heart breaker to the Wildcats by a score of 92-90 and fell short on being the first team to achieve a perfect season.
Then came the 1975-76 season and even after the tough loss in the tournament the last season, Wilkerson and the Hoosiers entered the season ranked number one in the polls. This Hoosier squad was one of the best in the country with May returning as the leading scorer and Wilkerson as a top defensive player for the team. As a senior starter, Bobby averaged 7.8 points and 4.9 rebounds while playing 28 minutes per game. For the second season in a row, Indiana finished with an undefeated regular season and a fourth straight Big Ten title. Heading into the 1976 NCAA Tournament, Wilkerson and the Hoosiers were looking to achieve what had never been done.
The Hoosiers needed only five wins to achieve perfection and their third national championship but that is easier said than done. Bobby averaged 6.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists while shooting 45.8 percent per game during Indiana’s postseason run. He had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds in the regional semifinal against Alabama and had 19 rebounds in the final four against UCLA. The Hoosiers were able to make it to the final game of the tournament where they were set to square off against Big Ten foe Michigan.
Three minutes into the title game, Wilkerson took an elbow to the head and laid unconscious on the floor for seven minutes. Indiana’s top defender was taken out of the game on a stretcher and did not return. Indiana’s perfect season was hanging in the balance as Coach Knight was having trouble with finding a defender like Wilkerson. The Wolverines led 35-29 at halftime but the top ranked team in the nation was able to move the ball offensively and regain the lead in the second half. Indiana pulled away from Michigan dominating their way to a 86-68 victory The record was now 32-0 as the Hoosiers captured their third national title and became the only team to achieve a perfect season.
Bobby Wilkerson went 86-6 overall and won three Big Ten titles with Indiana, as well as a national championship with a perfect season on top of it. In 2015, he was inducted into the Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame. His time at Indiana did not see a high scoring input but instead a performance that does not show up in the stat sheet. The former Hoosier was one of the top defensive players on the team as his effort and ability enabled him to excel defensively for Indiana. His performance defensively night in and night out was given praise by Coach Knight. “Bobby Wilkerson was the most valuable player I ever coached,” Knight said. “He could guard anyone.”
Bobby Wilkerson Professional Career
Bobby Wilkerson was drafted as the 11th overall pick to the Seattle Supersonics in the 1976 NBA Draft. He spent one season with Seattle where he averaged 6.7 points in almost 20 minutes of action per game. The Supersonic rookie was traded to the Denver Nuggets in 1977 and spent three seasons with the team. Bobby’s role was increased with the Nuggets as he averaged over 30 minutes per game with a scoring output of over 12 points a game. Wilkerson and Denver had two post season appearances in those three years from 1977-80 with the farthest being the Conference Finals.
After the 1980 season, Wilkerson was sold by Denver in and bought by the Chicago Bulls where he played for only one season. Bobby helped the Bulls to their first postseason appearance in four years where they defeated the Knicks in the first round but lost in the Conference Semifinals to the Larry Bird led Celtics. After his one season in Chicago, Wilkerson signed a veteran free agent contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He spent two seasons with the Cavaliers with an average of 10.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Cleveland did not perform well with only 38 wins during those two seasons. Bobby retired from the NBA in 1983 after playing for four teams over his seven year professional career. The former Indiana player recorded 5,424 points, 2,236 rebounds, and 1,835 assists during his time in the league.
Videos of Bobby Wilkerson
Check out the rich history of Indiana Hoosiers basketball!
Every week, we are publishing new articles on former and current Indiana University basketball legends, historical figures, and other IU history. Our goal is to capture the history of the Hoosiers all in one place. Click here to see our current collection of articles on Indiana basketball tradition.
Have a favorite Indiana Hoosier basketball player, coach, or event?
Help grow the Hoosier basketball history books by being a contributor to one of our IU athletics history pages! IndianaHQ is always looking for writers of all ages and experience levels. If you think you have what it takes, drop us an email here or send us a tweet!
(Contributor: Andrew Rude)