Black Student Athletics: Gus “Honeycomb” Johnson

Another of these great student-athletes was Gus “Honeycomb” Johnson, who, while only playing one season with the Vandals basketball team, quickly became a legend in Vandals history. Gus Johnson was born and raised in Akron, Ohio (Lebron James’ hometown), and would eventually join the Amateur Athletic Union Club until he accepted a scholarship offer to play a year at Boise Junior College (Boise State University). During his career there, he averaged 30 points and 20 rebounds per game until he transferred further north to the University of Idaho in 1962.1 During his one season with the Vandals, in 1963, he averaged 19 points and 20.3 rebounds per game and led the Vandals to a 20-6 season. His 20.3 rebounds average in 1963 ranked second in the NCAA, and his 466 rebounds in the 1963 season remains the current record at the University of Idaho.2 It is no surprise that he was drafted 10th overall (second round) by the Baltimore Billets (later the Washington Wizards) and led a prestigious career in the NBA for 11 years.

During his Johnson played for the Baltimore Billets, the Phoenix Suns, and the Indiana Pacers; he appeared in five NBA All-Star games, and in 1973 (his final year), he won with the Pacers in the American Basketball Association (ABA) Finals championship game. Johnson’s legacy as one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history has been cemented by his recognition from previous teams, with his induction into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame3 and the University of Idaho Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007,4 and into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.5 Even though his time at the University of Idaho was short, his success and excellence on the Vandals team stood out and garnered him widespread recognition.


  1. “Vandal Basketball Prospects For Season Reviewed by Cipriano,” _Lewiston Morning Tribune, _November 15, 1962. 
  2. “Gus Johnson,” University of Idaho Hall of Fame,
  3. “2007 Gus Johnson,” Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame,
  4. “Gus Johnson.” 
  5. “Gus Johnson,” The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame,


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The Seminal History and Prospective Future of Blacks at the University of Idaho Copyright © 2023 by Brody Gasper and Sydney Freeman Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.