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Mel Nowell

2024 Inductee


Mel Nowell

Mel Nowell is a product of the storied 1957-58 Columbus East High School team that went on to play for Fred Taylor at Ohio State, starting every game of his career and contributing greatly to the Buckeyes’ historic 1960 NCAA championship.

While at East, he set City League records for single-game scoring (43 points, on 20 of 32 from the field) and single-season scoring (440 points in 14 games for an average of 31.4 per game), as well as Franklin County season scoring (553 in 18 games, 30.7 per game).

He scored 40 or more points four times, and led his team in scoring every game while shooting 54 percent during the regular season. Newspaper accounts frequently praised his passing and ball handling while he led the Tigers to an outstanding 18-6 record. It was outstanding because the team went to the regional finals, and because four of the six losses were to teams which did not lose until the state tournament final four, when they beat each other. East had two losses to finalist Columbus North, one to Middletown and one to title winner Cleveland East Tech, which was so strong The Columbus Dispatch described the East- East Tech game as "five against one." The "one" was Nowell, who had 31 points and 14 rebounds in defeat. When the season ended, Mel was first team All-Ohio, and rated the state's second-best player behind Jerry Lucas.

At Ohio State, Nowell started every game of his career while the Buckeyes won 78 of 84 games, three Big Ten titles, three Mid-East Regional championships, four of six games in the Final Four, the 1960 NCAA title, finished second twice, and won two in-season tournaments. 

His sophomore year, when the team won the NCAA title, he was almost perfect, making 6 of 7 field-goal attempts and all three free throws to log 15 points – one behind Lucas’ game-high 16 points. He also consistently created havoc on defense to earn first team All-Final Four honors. For the season, Mel ranked third on the team in scoring (13.1 points), third in field-goal shooting (47.3 percent), and second in free-throw shooting (76.8 percent).

His junior season, he averaged 13.6 ppg (fourth), shot 49.0 percent from the field (third), and 77.8 percent from the line (second). As an OSU senior, he was third in scoring at 12.7 ppg and second in free-throw percentage at 78.2.

For 86 games, neither slumps, nor injuries, nor behavior caused him to miss a game in the starting lineup. All five starters on the 1960 title team played in the NBA. That had never happened before, and only the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers have done it since. 

Nowell went on to play one season in the NBA and one season in the ABA. He was enshrined in the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1985. He finished his collegiate career with 1,100 points and ranks 23rd among Ohio State players who played three seasons or fewer.