DECATUR – Dave Scholz, who was a Runnin’ Reds basketball star during his Decatur high school days and who left the University of Illinois as the school’s all-time leading scorer, has died.
Scholz passed away on Dec. 5, according to an e-mail from his children Robert Scholz, James Scholz and Erin Scholz that was sent to the University of Illinois. He was 67 years old.
Scholz was inducted into the Decatur Athletic Council Hall of Fame in 1998 and was recognized for his contributions as an Illini player, as well as his play for Decatur High. He was a member of the 1964 team that finished third in the state tournament, losing in the quarterfinals to a destiny-bound Cobden Appleknockers’ squad.
Scholz was part of a starting lineup that included Jack Sunderlik, Charlie Currie, Butch Smith and Bobby Warnsley.
The 1963-64 Decatur High team finished with a 33-2 record. The following year, Scholz’s senior season, the record was 29-3.
When he graduated as valedictorian in 1965, Scholz had scored 1,141 points in his high school career and although he was recruited by many colleges across the country, he decided to stay close to home, choosing to join coach Harry Combes at Illinois.
Jack Kenny, who coached the 1964 Decatur High team, accompanied Scholz on recruiting visits to Northwestern, Davidson and Georgia Tech.
“He was a hard-worker and a really good student,” Kenny said. “As a player he was just outstanding. You wished you had 100 of him.
“We were so fortunate in those years. We had some very good basketball players who were also good individuals and good students and they gave us no difficulty whatsoever. It was a pleasure kids like that.”
Scholz, who stood 6-foot-8, had a stellar Illini career and as a sophomore he was averaging 20.5 points and 10.9 rebounds when the slush fund scandal broke. That cost Combes his job and Scholz played his junior and senior seasons for Harv Schmidt.
Scholz averaged 22.0 points and 9.6 rebounds as a junior, then averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior for the 1968-69 Illini team that nearly won the Big Ten title and was ranked 20th in the nation.
When Scholz was inducted into the DAC Hall of Fame, he talked fondly of his experiences in Decatur.
“Maybe we should take the time to thank those important in our lives more often,” he said. “Decatur has always been special to me.”
Scholz became very involved in ballroom dancing and performed well in competitions around the country.
He was back in Decatur not long ago for a reunion of the 1964 team that was honored at the Turkey Tournament.
When Harv Schmidt returned to Champaign in 2005 for an Illini basketball reunion, he recalled Scholz and their time together.
“Absolutely the best,” Schmidt said. “Besides the fact that he was the school’s all-time leading scorer at one time, what stood out with Dave was his intelligence and his character. He was one heck of a human being.
“His style was relentless. He’s my all-time favorite, sensational.”
Scholz was a fourth-round draft pick of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, although he never won a permanent spot on the roster.
“I retired having played one minute in one game,” Scholz said. “I took one shot and made it so I have a perfect NBA shooting percentage.”
Scholz liked to share credit with those around him.
“I consider myself fortunate,” he said. “I appreciate the attention I’ve received for my individual efforts, but those efforts have been part of a bigger goal. My success was the result of a lot of unselfish work by my teammates and coaches. I recognize that.”
Scholz scored 1,459 points in his Illini career and finished with averages of 20.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. He is currently ranked No. 14 on the Illini career scoring list.