The Legend of Lees Creek passes


Phil Snow was one of Bobby Joe Hooper’s biggest rivals on the basketball floor or baseball diamond back in the 1960s.

A legend of his own, Snow said Hooper had one trait that stood out above all others.

“He was a winner,” said Snow. “He just found a way to get it done.”

Bobby Joe Hooper, known by many outside this area as The Legend of Lees Creek, died May 9 in Columbus. He was the son of the late Margaret and Vernon Hooper. He is survived by his brother Butch.

Vernon Hooper was a longtime teacher and golf coach at Hillsboro High School, and a handful of times in the late 1970s, then-Hillsboro coach Bill Newland brought Bobby Joe into practices at HHS to help with the basketball team.

Bobby Joe was inducted into the Clinton County Sports Hall of Fame in 1997, the University of Dayton Hall of Fame in 1989 and was named to UD’s all-century basketball team in 2004. Most recently, Bobby volunteered for Hospice of Clinton County and Ross County. He also enjoyed attending Real Joy Community Fellowship Church in Chillicothe.

Hooper, who once scored 53 points in a junior high school basketball game for Port William, averaged 15 points as a senior at Dayton, the year the Flyers won the NIT championship. He finished with 1,059 points for his UD career. He made 223 of 267 free throws, good for 83.5 percent. He made 34 straight free throws during the 1965-66 season.

Snow’s statement that Hooper was a winner is backed by the numbers — 69-12 high school basketball record at Wilmington and Simon Kenton and an 87-24 record at the University of Dayton.

“What do I say about Hoop,” Snow said when asked about his former rival. “We all know he was a great all-around ball player. The thing that impressed me the most was his ability to look at a situation, especially at the end of a game, and to control that part and make a difference in winning.”

With Hooper at Simon Kenton and Snow at Sabina, meetings on the court were must-see for Clinton County basketball fans, even if they didn’t attend either school.

“When we played those games, it was kind of intense,” said Snow. “But at the end of the day … he shook my hand and I shook his. We respected each other. We just played hard. We never had (harsh) words.”

After attending Wilmington his freshman year of high school, Hooper went to Simon Kenton and won two county basketball tournament championships. He was an equally accomplished baseball player and turned down an opportunity to sign professionally with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

After high school, Hooper went to UD to play basketball. After a 23-6 sophomore season (freshmen could not play on the varsity team in those days) in which the Flyers lost to the University of Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, Hooper earned his Legend of Lees Creek moniker the following year. UD went 25-6 and came up short against Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and the legendary UCLA Bruins of John Wooden in the championship game.

The first tournament game that year for the Flyers, however, was against Western Kentucky. Dayton won a thrilling overtime game, 69-67, with Hooper hitting the game-winning shot with 4 seconds to go. Many believe few people outside Clinton County knew of Lees Creek, Ohio at that time until Hooper’s magical buzzer-beater.

The next season, Hooper and the Flyers won the National Invitation Tournament over Kansas, 61-48. Hooper’s basketball career continued as he signed with the Indiana Pacers of the newly-formed American Basketball Association. A hand injury moved Hooper to the sideline but he eventually became an assistant coach for the Pacers. Hooper also was an assistant coach at UD and was head boys basketball coach at Clinton-Massie for three seasons. He took over from Larry Bartram.

“Bobby assisted us — me and Tom Misenko — a year before he took over,” said Bartram. “He was really intelligent, just like his brother (Butch). He was so smart at maneuvering the defense. He could make you (his teammate) look good, everybody saw that when he played at UD.

“When he first worked with us, we would go scout. We’d be there less than a quarter and he’d say, ‘Bart, I know everything they’re going to do. Let’s go. When we get back I’ll write everything down.’ He’d seen so much, had such vast knowledge of basketball.”

Snow reminisced fondly about his many battles with Hooper.

“We had some great games. It started in grade school,” said Snow. “We had our high school days and then college (Snow at Miami while Hooper was at UD). He was a good ball player that was hard to beat. In high school, he wasn’t real fast. He was quick. He was smart. He was kind of like a Larry Bird. He’d figure out a way to orchestrate the game.”

Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email [email protected] or at @wnjsports

No posts to display