FlashBuck: Kelvin Ransey

By Michael Citro on April 12, 2013 at 1:00p

Three weeks from today — on May 3 — Kelvin Ransey will turn 55 years old. Some of you are too young to remember Ransey, a basketball quarterback, topped with a mushroom cloud of an afro, who owned St. John Arena from the 1976-77 through 1979-80 seasons.

More like Kelvin Slamsey, amirite?Ransey owned St. John Arena from 1976-77 through 1979-80.

For some reason, Ransey's name is often overlooked when discussing the best basketball players in Ohio State history. If he was before your time, picture a smaller Jim Jackson with slightly better ball-handling skills.

Kelvin was a product of Macomber High School in his native Toledo. As a youngster, Ransey’s love of the game took a while to kick in. Despite being talented, a lack of motivation led to being cut from teams in middle school — he wasn’t into the trash-talking culture of basketball. But at Macomber he found his passion and became a dominant player in the City League.

Ransey took the Macmen to the state’s regionals in his junior year, but Macomber fell to Elyria in an epic triple-overtime battle. The next year the squad lost a key player in John Flowers, who transferred to Sylvania, derailing a potential state championship run in 1975-76.

Despite the retirement of legendary coach Fred Taylor in 1976 after his worst season in Columbus (6-20), Ransey accepted a scholarship offer to Ohio State and enrolled that fall.

Freshman Year

Ransey was a savvy player, but he wasn’t terribly big. He stood a smidge over 6-foot-1 and weighed less than 190 pounds. He became a freshman starter under first-year head coach Eldon Miller for what would be a pretty bad Ohio State team in 1976-77. His fellow starters included captain and point guard Larry Bolden, center Jim Ellinghausen, and forwards Terry Burris and Tony Hall.

The Buckeyes finished 9-18 that season (4-14 in the Big Ten) and had a particularly dreadful nine-game losing streak in conference play, falling by an average of 17 points in those contests. Ohio State finished dead last in the league, which was actually 10th back then.

He posted 10 points and four assists in his first collegiate game, a 69-66 win over Butler on Nov. 27, 1976. Two games later he scored 20 points for the first time in a loss to Virginia Tech. He posted a game-high 24 in a loss to Princeton in the Kodak Classic in Rochester, New York, and a game-high 21 in a loss at Northwestern. It was a rough first season, but Ransey excelled while often playing the less natural 2 position.

Ransey set a then-OSU freshman record with 327 points. He averaged 32 minutes, 13.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest. As a frosh, he led the Buckeyes in scoring average. He made 78% of his free throws, dished 69 assists against 51 turnovers, and totaled 21 steals and 10 blocks.

Sophomore Year

Kelvin really blossomed during his sophomore season, manning the point more often, and the team around him showed some growth as well. The 1977-78 Buckeyes won their first three games and eight of their first 10, en route to a 16-11 record (9-9 in the B1G) and a sixth-place finish in the conference. Ohio State was particularly tough at home, going 11-3 in St. John Arena.

Although Ransey’s improvement was part of the reason the team improved, the addition of center Herb Williams to the lineup certainly didn’t hurt. Jim Smith, Ken Page and co-captain Mike Cline rounded out the starting lineup.

Kelvin scored 22 points as Ohio State hung 108 on Stetson in an early season romp. In a home loss to Iowa, Ransey tallied 20 points, five boards and seven dimes. He exploded for 28 in a 91-77 home destruction of Purdue and backed it up with 21 in a loss to Indiana and 20 more in a tough 79-74 loss at Michigan State. Kelvin posted a double-double with 26 points and 10 assists in a 94-87 overtime win over Kevin McHale and No. 19 Minnesota. He closed the season with a game-high 24 points and five dimes in a win at Wisconsin.

h/t The LanternRansey was a quarterback on the basketball court.

Ransey played 35 minutes per game, leading the team in scoring again with a 17.6-point average, to go with 3.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. His 138 assists came against 79 turnovers, for a respectable 1.75 assist-to-turnover ratio. Ransey hit 49% of his shots and came up with 53 steals.

For his outstanding season, Ransey was named the team’s MVP and was selected to the All-Big Ten team.

“I think Ransey and Ronnie Lester (Iowa) are probably the two best point guards in the conference,” then-Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote told the Lantern in 1978.

Junior Year

Ransey, Williams and Smith were joined by Carter Scott and Todd Penn as starters during the 1978-79 season. Along with Smith, Ransey was named co-captain for a team that finished 19-12. The Buckeyes started conference play hot, winning the first eight games in B1G play. But Ohio State faltered to a 4-6 finish over the final 10 games, placing fourth in the conference.

In one of the more dramatic games of the season, Ransey tallied 26 points and eight assists as Ohio State erased a 17-point, second-half deficit against No. 1 Duke. The Buckeyes won in overtime, 90-84, in Madison Square Garden, as part of the ECAC Holiday Tournament on Dec. 29, 1978. Unfortunately, the thing most people remember from that night is this.

All Ransey did the next night against Rutgers was score a career-high 38 points, but Ohio State fell in triple-overtime, 97-96. This came just prior to Ohio State’s eight-game conference winning streak.

He also scored 31 points in a win over Miami (OH), 24 each in wins against West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Iowa, and 33 in a 75-71 win over Purdue. Kelvin notched 25 in both a loss at Michigan State and a win at Northwestern. He was reaching the upper teens and low twenties in scoring almost every night.

The Buckeyes were invited to the NIT after the season, marking the first time Eldon Miller’s OSU squad made a postseason tournament. Ohio State easily dispatched St. Joseph’s in the first round, 80-66, behind Ransey’s 18 points and seven assists. He scored 23 to lead Ohio State to a 79-72 win at Maryland, earning a trip to New York City. Once there, the Buckeyes fell to conference foe Indiana, 64-55, then lost again in the third-place game, 96-86, against Alabama. Ransey scored 25 in each of the final two losses, with 13 total assists.

Playing an exhausting 37.5 minutes per game, Kelvin averaged 21.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists during his junior year, with a career-high 54 steals. He shot almost 55% from the field, scoring 664 points — leading Ohio State in scoring for the third consecutive season.

Ransey was named a third-team UPI All-American and was All-B1G for the second straight year.

One weird side note about the 1978-79 team is that it included eight appearances by Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter, who averaged 1.7 points per game.

Senior Year

Returning as co-captain for the 1979-80 season — this time with Williams sharing the honors — Ransey found himself on a more balanced team, where he wasn’t forced to do as much of the heavy lifting. Scott and Smith returned at guard and forward, respectively, and freshman Clark Kellogg worked his way into the starting rotation.

The Buckeyes won 12 of the first 13 games that year, en route to a 21-8 mark. Ohio State’s 12-6 conference record was good for a second-place finish behind Indiana. The Buckeyes split with the Hoosiers that season, winning at home and falling in overtime in Bloomington in the last game.

Miller’s first 20-win season in Columbus got Ohio State into the NCAA Tournament in Ransey’s final year. The Buckeyes were the No. 4 seed in the West Region and opened up in Tempe, Arizona against Arizona State, naturally. The Buckeyes rose to the challenge of what was ostensibly a road tournament game and won, 89-75. Ohio State advanced to face No. 8 seed UCLA.

Ransey scored 29 points on 13/23 shooting against the Bruins in Tucson — the ninth-highest March Madness point total in school history. Unfortunately, he fouled out in the final minute of UCLA’s 72-68 win, and the Buckeyes fell just shy of an Elite Eight appearance. Ransey’s Ohio State career was over.

“I think Ransey and Ronnie Lester are probably the two best point guards in the conference.” - MSU Head Coach Jud Heathcote, in 1978  With 16.2 points per game, Ransey finished second on the team in scoring behind Williams. He averaged 4.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists. His 177 assists was a single-season school record at the time. He shot 49% from the floor and 85% from the line in his final year, earning team MVP honors for the second time and All-B1G for the third straight year. He was a second-team consensus AP All-American, a second-team UPI All-American and second-team USBWA All-American.


Ransey started 111 of 112 games at Ohio State. He had a streak of 80 straight games scoring in double figures. He never won a conference or postseason championship, but he was part of a pretty solid rebuilding job from Eldon Miller’s first season at the helm, going from 10th place in the Big Ten as a freshman to a No. 10 final ranking in the 1980 AP poll as a senior.

"My best memory of playing at Ohio State is the fact that we built that program back up,” Ransey told the Toledo Blade in a 2005 interview. “Eldon Miller did a great job of recruiting and he was a tremendous teacher of the game. It was like going from being nobody to, by my senior year, ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation."

Ransey is still the highest-scoring point guard in Ohio State history and was the highest-scoring guard of any kind until William Buford passed him last year. He ranks fifth on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list, with 1,934 points, behind Dennis Hopson, Williams, Jerry Lucas, and Buford. His career scoring average of 17.8 is 12th in school history. He stands behind only Williams in career field goals made, with 827, drilling 282 of those his junior year — the third most in one year by a Buckeye.

He is third in career assists (516), passed by only Jamar Butler and Aaron Craft in the 33 years since he left Columbus. He led the Buckeyes in scoring three times (1976-77 through 1978-79), and in steals and assists three times as well (1977-78 through 1979-80).

In six postseason games (NIT and NCAA), Ransey averaged 24 points and five assists, and scored no fewer than 18 points in any tournament game.

A three-time All-B1G selection and two-time team MVP and captain, Kelvin was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1986.

The League

Kelvin was selected fourth overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 1980 NBA Draft, but he would never play for Chicago. The Bulls swapped him to Portland in exchange for a first-round draft pick and Ransey’s conference foe Lester, who had led Iowa to the Final Four in March. The Trailblazers had taken Lester with the No. 10 overall pick. Heathcote apparently wasn’t the only one who thought Ransey and Lester were the Big Ten’s best guards.

Only Joe Barry Carroll (Golden State), Darrell Griffith (Utah), and Kevin McHale (Boston) were picked higher than Kelvin Ransey in 1980. To illustrate just how much times have changed, Ransey signed a four-year deal with Portland worth $1.4 million. Top draft picks today probably spend more than that on Christmas.

Ransey quickly worked his way into the starting lineup and excelled there, finishing second to Griffith by just one vote in NBA Rookie of the Year voting in 1981. He averaged 15.2 points and 6.9 assists per game in his first season, and his 555 assists were a franchise single-season record. Ransey also helped guide Portland into the playoffs.

His numbers improved in his second year to 16.1 points and 7.1 assists per game, but the Trailblazers missed the postseason. Despite his solid backcourt play with Jim Paxson, the Blazers traded Kelvin to Dallas for Wayne Cooper and a draft pick that ended up becoming Terry Porter. Even in just two short years, Ransey made his mark in the Pacific Northwest. In 2009, The Oregonian named Kelvin No. 29 on the Blazers’ all-time Top 40 list.

"If they would have built around us, I felt they could have had a championship-caliber team in a couple of years,” Ransey told The Oregonian. “But for some reason, they felt the need to trade me. I never did understand it, to this day."

The trade affected Ransey’s perception of the game. His minutes and his numbers dwindled in Dallas. He dropped from more than 31 minutes per game in 1981-82 to just 21 per outing with the Mavericks in 1982-83. He averaged 11.1 points and 3.7 assists. After the season, Dallas sent Ransey to the New Jersey Nets in a trade.

New Jersey apparently really wanted Ransey. In addition to giving Dallas their team captain, Clarence “Foots” Walker, the Nets gave the Mavs a second-round pick in 1984 and a first-round selection in 1985. He spent three seasons in New Jersey, but the Nets didn’t get their expected return on investment. Ransey’s scoring average dropped below double digits to 9.5 per game in 1983-84 and fell slightly the next two years. His six assists per game in 1983-84 nearly doubled what he’d had in Dallas, but that too fell off. The Nets made the playoffs all three years he was in New Jersey, but didn’t win a series.

Ransey had lost his passion for basketball, but he’d found his true calling and retired from the NBA at age 27 to pursue more spiritual endeavors.

Life After Hoops

Kelvin returned to Toledo after the 1985-86 NBA season and become a preacher. He remained in his hometown until 2000, when he left to take over a congregation in Tupelo, Mississippi, not far from where his parents grew up. He was heavily influenced by his father, who was a church deacon.

He continues to pastor today, helping people get clean and sober, and being a positive influence in the community.


Comments Show All Comments

WC Buckeye's picture

Watching Kelvin Ransey, Carter Scott, and Herbie Williams in those days was terrific - they had a great inside-out presence, and Kelvin really did set the stage for some great Ohio Buckeye recruits coming in shortly after his time; Clark Kellogg (Cleveland), Jimmy Jackson (Toledo), Dennis Hopson (Toledo) and many others can probably be traced back to the guy. Thanks for a great read on a guy I was lucky enough to watch play.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

nickma71's picture

Orris Tabner didn't forget him.

Michael Citro's picture

Can you elaborate on that?

buckeyedude's picture

It's a Toledo-thing, Mike, you wouldn't understand.



Michael Citro's picture

I might, if someone elaborated! :)

WC Buckeye's picture

Longtimer with the Blade. :)

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

Michael Citro's picture

I know who Tabner is, but I didn't know if there was more to the story of Tabner "not forgetting him."

WC Buckeye's picture

My bad - long timer with WTOL, who I believe used to call Ransey's HS games.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture

Those who saw Ransey play know what a dynamic player he was.   He was fun to watch and I can remember emulating him in the driveway as a young kid.  
I always remember his senior year team as one of OSU's best.   Herb Williams was a STUD, Carter Scott was a tremendous player in his own right, Jim Smith was an animal on the boards and Kellogg was a star in the making even as a freshman.  Was Larry Huggins on that team as well (Bob's brother, decent player), but he may have bene a couple years later and I am way too lazy to look it up.
Thanks for the stroll down memory lane, I love these features.  And I honestly had no idea he retired that early, I just thought he was cut since his nunbers were sliding and never caught on anywhere.  Glad he left on his terms to do something he loved.

Michael Citro's picture

My friends and I used to crash into each other intentionally during pickup games, saying "I'm Jim Smith!" Dude was a VERY physical player.

Good memory about Larry Huggins. He was a freshman in Ransey's senior season. Later played with Stokes & Taylor in one of the best back courts in OSU history.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture

Thanks for clarifying.
Stokes and Taylor are a couple of my favorites too, went to Canton McKinley together and then OSU together.   They were incredibly talented in their own right.
Love these features, great work.

RoyWalley's picture

Wow, brings back good memories.  I was at that triple over time game with Elyria High School, one of the best high school games I ever attended! 

buckguyfan1's picture

Man, great memories of watching these players you all are mentioning.  Makes me feel a little older today.

Buckeye_Hutch's picture

Wow, thanks for the correction. All those years ago, I never realized his name isn't spelled (and pronounced) Ramsey.
Of course I was just a kid in the 70s. But I remember the names of Herbie Williams and Eldon Miller, and you can't turn on CBS during hoops nowadays, without remembering Clark Kellogg.

buckeyedude's picture

I was in junior high when Ransey was at OSU. Another Toledoan that comes up big at Ohio State.



EvanstonBuckeye's picture

Loved Kelvin Ransey. Don't forget a guy later, Tony Campbell, though. When I first saw Deshaun Thomas, I instantly thought of Campbell as they both had a bead on the rim and could finish. Ransey article rings back great memories of pickup games in the driveway.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture

I still think of Campbell as one of the greatest college players I ever saw.  So good at creating his own shot, and like Thomas you felt confident he would score every time he touched the ball.

lamplighter's picture

Nice story - I always seem to forget about that team, probably because they should have beaten UCLA and because Eldon was such a (fill in the blank). 

Buckeye Chuck's picture

The unexpected loss in the 1980 tournament was really the beginning of the end for Miller. That senior-dominated 1981 team was possibly the single most disappointing Buckeye team ever, in any sport, and its failure basically killed off our elite recruiting for the rest of the decade. It was only because Tony Campbell and Dennis Hopson overachieved that we had any success at all in the post-Kellogg years.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

TheSweaterVest's picture

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Heathcote quote is actually from 78, not 79, but it's still hilarious.  I bet he said it just to piss Magic off.
If Kenny Page hadn't gotten in trouble, that would have been an all-time great Buckeye backcourt.

Michael Citro's picture

You're right. It was from 78 now that I look back at the article again. Fixed.

Joe Beale's picture

That makes sense, because Lester didn't play much his senior year.  He missed almost all of Big Ten play but returned for the tournament just in time to spark Iowa to a run.

Also, it was no shame losing to that UCLA team, since they went all the way to the championship before losing to Louisville.  OSU's lone pre-BigTen loss was at Louisville, in a game that we led for large portions of the game before fading in the 2nd half.  That ASU team that we crushed in the tournament was no slouch either.  They boasted future NBA starters Alton Lister, Byron Scott, Kurt Nimphius, and Lafayette "Fat" Lever.

German Buckeye's picture

Such awesome memories - Ransey, Scott, Smith, Williams - this group got me interested in basketball.  That and listening to/watching games of Jim Paxton (and later Roosevelt Chapman) at U.D.  Man, talk about a roll back memory lane.  On the down side, I suddenly feel all my 47 years right now (black and white pics no less).   

CowCat's picture

I remember watching Kelvin Ransey as a wee tike.  My brother idolized him -- he dressed up like Ransey for a talent show and wrote a poem about him.  Lol.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

okiebuck's picture

Good stuff; a real nice story Michael about a class act. I remember going to a lot of those games "back in the day". Still can't shake the sight of Larry Huggins dribbling off his leg out of bounds in the NCAA.

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

LessScarletMoreGray's picture

I grew up in Toledo and Kelvin and I both worked one summer at Babcock Dairy. Kelvin got the easy jobs, like sweeping floors and painting stuff, and I had to hand scrub the cottage cheese vats and clean the pits under the cooler floors where all the milk and stuff dropped and spoiled.
I didn't mind though. He was pretty cool about it all. He probably has zero recollection of me.

Oldschoolbuck's picture

Great article. I wandered into one of the gyms in the student rec center one day; there was Kelvin, Todd Penn & Herb Williams goofing around. We played a pick up game (they were all in street clothes) with some other guys... A great memory!
They were all good dudes, too.
Didn't Herb play about 43 years in the NBA?