Birthdate: October 19, 1950
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
High School: Marlington HS (1969)
Colleges: Ohio State University (1973)
Year Inducted: 2021
Luke Witte was dominant presence at Marlington High School in Alliance, Ohio, who eventually teamed with Jim Cleamons and Allan Hornyak at The Ohio State to deliver a Big Ten championship for legendary coach Fred Taylor in 1971. A 7-footer with a surprisingly deft touch, he also played in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Witte logged more than 1,500 points during his impressive prep career and his unique skillset made him a key piece for the Buckeyes as they looked to regain the upper hand of the Big Ten after advancing to the Final Four in 1968. In his first season with the OSU varsity in 1970-71, the lanky center made an immediate impression by leading the team in rebounds with 331 and earning all-conference honors. Hornyak was the top scoring option that season, pairing well in the backcourt with Cleamons, a senior leader and reliable point guard, but Witte proved to be an instant commodity for the Buckeyes. His 18.9 points per game ranked second on the team and he added a hefty 12.7 boards per game while averaging more than 35 minutes a contest and shooting 56.3 percent from the field.
Ohio State won the Big Ten that year with a gaudy 13-1 record and went 20-6 overall. Now a marked team and consistently ranked in the polls, the Buckeyes often drew other team’s best – and most physical – efforts the following season. Sure enough, a particularly rough-and-tumble game at Minnesota on January 25, 1972 turned into one of the worst moments in Big Ten basketball history – an all-out fracas in which Witte and other OSU players were assaulted by several Gophers and their fans. The ugly brawl sent Witte, who was knocked unconscious, to University of Minnesota Medical Center where he was treated for a scarred cornea, facial lacerations that required 29 stitches and other injuries.
The incident marred the season and shook Taylor, who retired just a few years later. Witte also was affected, but he recovered well enough to finish the year with season averages of 17.0 ppg and 12.6 rpg – again ranking second and first, respectively, on the team. OSU finished second in the league standings that year and 19th in the final Associated Press poll. Witte posted 13.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg in his senior season before being selected in the fourth round of the 1973 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, who also owned the rights to former OSU teammates Cleamons and Hornyak. The big man played three years at the highest level of the game and continued his career playing in Italy and Switzerland.
After basketball, Witte became owner of a sporting goods store in Alliance but eventually poured his energy into his faith. He’s been a Presbyterian church minister in Charlotte, NC, for decades.