Clarence 'Bevo' Francis dies at 82; college basketball high scorer

Clarence 'Bevo' Francis dies at 82; college basketball high scorer
Clarence "Bevo" Francis, No. 32, was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors of the NBA but chose not to play. (Associated Press)

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, degree-granting 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, finishing 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.

Times staff writer Steve Marble contributed to this report.