Chuck Bavis, one of the Fort Wayne area's most successful basketball players, died Saturday morning at age 71.
During his high school career at Garrett High School, Bavis helped the Railroaders win three consecutive sectional titles and scored 1,463 points. The 7-foot center was named to the Indiana All-Stars after his senior year and was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
Bavis teamed with Jim Heitz in 1964-65 to lead Garrett to a 23-2 record and a 15-game winning streak that ended in the semistate. The Railroaders' games were so popular that four games were moved to Memorial Coliseum that season. A showdown against Ossian drew 8,013 fans as Garrett won 87-56 in the second-largest boys basketball crowd to see a high school basketball game in Fort Wayne following the 1958 sectional showdown between Central and South Side.
Bavis averaged 33 points during his senior year – playing six games at the Coliseum – as the Railroaders were 24-0 before falling to South Side and Mr. Basketball Willie Long in the regional.
Heading to Purdue, Bavis' first varsity game as a sophomore was the opening of Mackey Arena, Purdue's new basketball arena, against defending national champion UCLA and all-American center Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) on Dec. 2, 1967. Despite a stiff challenge that included Bavis helping hold Alcindor to 17 points, UCLA won 73-71 on a last-second shot.
Bavis had a strong career at Purdue, starting at center as a junior in the 1968-69 season that saw the Boilermakers win the Big Ten title and advance to the NCAA Tournament final against UCLA. The only problem was that Bavis had suffered a broken shoulder in the regional against Miami (Ohio). With Bavis sitting on the bench, UCLA won the championship 92-72.
The following fall, Bavis lost control of his car after drinking too much in a bar and was involved in a serious one-car accident. Part of his left foot had to be amputated, and his career was over.
He eventually became a successful businessman, and often spoke about the dangers of drinking and driving. Bavis was a Regional Sales Manager for JDS Industries since 2001, working in the trophy and awards manufacturing business. Bavis is survived by wife Carol and sons Jordan and Alex.
Viewing will be 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Feller & Clark Funeral Home in Auburn. His funeral Mass is 11 a.m. Wednesday at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Auburn with viewing at 10 a.m.