Ray Tolbert

Ray Tolbert Biography

Ray Tolbert is an American basketball player from Anderson, IN that played for Indiana University. He played power forward and center for the Hoosiers between 1977-1981. He was part of the 1981 NCAA Championship team for the Hoosiers. Tolbert was drafted in the first round of the 1981 NBA draft to the New Jersey Nets. He played professionally from 1981-1994 and is currently a coach for Fishers High School.

  • Name: Raymond Lee “Ray” Tolbert
  • Position: Power Forward / Center
  • Nationality: USA
  • Age: 61 years old
  • Birthday: September 10, 1958
  • Hometown: Anderson, Indiana
  • High School: Madison Heights (Anderson, Indiana)
  • Height: 6’9″ (206 cm)
  • Weight: 225 lb (102 kg)
  • Seasons: 4 (1977-81)
  • Jersey: #45
  • NBA Draft: 1981 / 1st round, 18th overall to New Jersey Nets

Awards and Accolades

  • 20th All-Time Leading Points for Indiana
  • 6th All-Time Leading Rebounds for Indiana
  • 1981 NCAA Championship
  • 1981 IU MVP & Big Ten Player of the Year
  • 1981 Big Ten Championship
  • 1980 Big Ten Championship
  • 1979 Gold Medal Pan Am Games
  • 1979 NIT Championship
  • 1977 McDonald’s All-American
  • 1977 Indiana Mr. Basketball

Ray Tolbert’s High School Recruiting Profile

Ray Tolbert grew up in Anderson, Indiana who went to high school at Madison Heights in Anderson, Indiana. He was the leading scorer during his senior year with 25.1 points per game, leading in rebounds with 13.0 per game and leading blocked shots with 6 per game. He was coached under Phil Buck.He was recruited by Indiana under Coach Bob Knight.

Source: Indiana Basketball HOF

I can’t imagine there being many better college prospects than Ray Tolbert,” said Madison Heights coach Phil Buck. “His potential is unlimited.

Phil Buck, Ray Tolbert’s High School Coach

Tolbert idolized Bobby Wilkerson who also attended Madison Heights. He also attended Indiana and was part of the 1976 NCAA Championship that went undefeated.

He was recruited the last two years by almost every team in the Big Ten as well as Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA and Southern Cal. He got another call just this week from UCLA. He was under constant pressure but never became complacent.

Phil Buck

Ray Tolbert’s Seasons with the Hoosiers

1977-1978 Indiana Basketball Season
Bob Knight (7th Season)
21-8 (12-6 Big Ten)
🥈 2nd Place Big Ten
🏅 NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1978-1979 Indiana Basketball Season
Bob Knight (8th Season)
22-12 (10-8 Big Ten)
4th Place Big Ten
🏅 NIT Champions
1979-1980 Indiana Basketball Season
Bob Knight (9th Season)
21-8 (13-5 Big Ten)
🏆 1st Place Big Ten
🏅 NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1980-1981 Indiana Basketball Season
Bob Knight (10th Season)
26-9 (14-4 Big Ten)
🏆 1st Place Big Ten
🏆 1981 NCAA Champions

Indiana University Career Statistics

(Source: Indiana University Athletics)

GP GS MIN AVG FGM FGA PCT FTM FTA PCT TOT AVG PF AST AST/G T/O BLK STL PTS AVG
1977-78 29 28 899 31.0 121 269 0.450 50 77 0.649 201 6.9 93 21 0.7 62 39 25 292 10.1
1978-79 34 32 1122 33.0 168 309 0.544 71 102 0.696 241 7.1 100 39 1.1 85 45 22 407 12.0
1979-80 29 28 928 32.0 127 241 0.527 46 75 0.613 208 7.2 80 44 1.5 50 33 20 300 10.3
1980-81 35 35 1190 34.0 177 301 0.588 74 100 0.740 224 6.4 92 50 1.4 71 38 25 428 12.2
Total 127 123 4139 32.6 593 1120 0.529 241 354 0.681 874 6.9 365 154 1.2 268 155 92 1427 11.2

Ray Tolbert’s Indiana University Basketball Career

Ray Tolbert was a four year starter for the Hoosiers that created an immediate impact for their team. He started in all but one game during his first year under head coach Bob Knight. He averaged 10.1 points per game in his first year and the Hoosiers advanced to the Sweet Sixteen where they lost to Villanova 61-60.

In his second year, he continued to progress and develop his offensive ability and had his highest scoring season of his career with 12.0 ppg. The Hoosiers did not make the NCAA Tournament, ended in fourth place in the Big Ten, but they ended up winning the NIT Tournament. Ray Tolbert won co-MVP of the NIT tournament.

Indiana made it back to the NCAA Tournament in Tolbert’s junior year. Bob Knight was in his ninth year and the Hoosiers ended 21-8 and 13-5 in the Big Ten. Indiana lost to Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena 69-76.

IndianaHQ Shop - Indiana Tshirts, IU Hoosiers Apparel

Ray Tolbert led the team during the 1980-1981 season as one of the team co-captains. The Hoosiers ended the season 26-9, 14-4 in the Big Ten and were invited to teh 1981 NCAA Tournament as a 3-seed. The Hoosiers won their fourth national title with a 63-50 win over North Carolina.

Tolbert entered the NBA draft at the end of the 1981 season. He was drafted as one of the four Hoosiers to be drafted this year and landed in the first round, 18th overall pick to the New Jersey Nets. Isiah Thomas was the only team member drafted higher than him this year, at 2nd overall.

Ray Tolbert’s Career after Indiana

Source: LA Times

After being drafted for the New Jersey Nets, Tolbert played in 12 games in his rookie season, and did not start any games. He averaged 3.4 points in his first season and was traded to Seattle, then Detroit. His best season was in 1982-83 where he averaged 5.1 points per game.

Tolbert went overseas to play for Italy and then the CBA. He re-entered the NBA in 1987 for the Knicks, Lakers and Hawks. After several more seasons, he left the NBA and played for Aurora Desio, Malaga, and the Fort Wayne Fury.

He scored 928 total points and played in 261 games throughout his NBA career.

Ray Tolbert Professional Career Summary

  • 1981: New Jersey Nets
  • 1981-1983: Seattle SuperSonics
  • 1983-1984: Detroit Pistons
  • 1984-1985: Reyer Venezia Mestre
  • 1985: Tampa Bay Thrillers
  • 1985-1986: La Crosse Catbirds
  • 1987: Pensacola Tornados
  • 1987: New York Knicks
  • 1987-1988: Los Angeles Lakers
  • 1988-1989: Atlanta Hawks
  • 1989-1990: Aurora Desio
  • 1991: Malaga
  • 1993-1994: Fort Wayne Fury

Ray Tolbert’s After Basketball Career

After retiring from the NBA, he started to coach. He became coach for the ABA’s Anderson Champions for 2006-2007’s season. Currently, he resides in Fishers, Indiana where he is the Varsity Assistant at Fishers High School.

Ray Tolbert’s Videos and Highlights

Highlights as an Indiana Hoosier

Interviews and Other Videos of Ray Tolbert


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!

(Contributors: Dakota Thompson)

Cover Photo Credit: Bill Ingraham / AP