Wendell Ladner

Nickname: "Mr. Excitement"
Ht. 6-5
Wt. 220
College - Southern Mississippi
ABA Teams: Memphis (1970-71 to 1971-72 and 1972-73), Carolina (1971-72), Kentucky (1972-73 to 1973-74), New York (1973-74 to 1974-75)

Known for his hustle and physical play. One of the great "enforcers" of the ABA--protected Dan Issel in Kentucky and Julius Erving in New York. Immensely popular wherever he played. His good looks prompted the Kentucky front office to market a Ladner "beefcake" poster (above) to the Colonels' female fans . Held the unofficial pro sports record for being traded the most times in mid-season. Tragically died in a June 1975 plane crash in New York.

Jim O'Brien's complete Wendell Ladner Interview/Biography

From Jim O'Brien's 1972-73 Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball:
Runner-up to Kentucky's Dan Issel and Virginia Charlie Scott for 1970-71 ABA Rookie of the Year honors . . . Gave away two to five inches to all those ranking above him in ABA rebounding . . . Real farm boy, he likes to raise hell on floor . . . Most serious challenger to John Brisker's claim to heavyweight champion of the ABA . . . "I'd like to see that matchup," Memphis coach Babe McCarthy claims. "Ladner's had some big fights and there's not a mark on him." . . . Was always after Rick Barry's hide for some reason or another . . . His second wife turns a lot of eyes but you're advised not to look . . . Drafted second by Memphis and signed prior to NBA draft, although projected to be one of NBA's top 20 prospects . . . They call him "The Mad Bomber" for his penchant for three-pointers. He tried 236 of them, but hit only 25 percent of them, which might dissuade some, but not Ladner . . . "Wendell might make two of the worst plays you've ever seen," said McCarthy, "but he'll come back with a dozen great ones because he never quits hustling. It's a pleasure to have somebody like him" . . . Once quite a football prospect, and still bulls his way around . . . Handsome and muscle-bound, he pairs with Bob Netolicky on ABA's all-flake five.
Career ABA Totals 300 7883 1498 3884 .386 112 444 .252 366 514 .712 2481 621 1168 3474 8.3 2.1 11.6
ABA Playoff Totals 40 718 131 359 .365 23 86 .267 20 33 .606 171 69 145 305 4.3 1.7 7.6
ABA All-Star Totals 2 34 8 16 .500 0 1 .000 0 0 .000 13 1 5 16 6.5 0.5 8.0

MEMORIES OF DENNIS OECHSLI: "I was a gym rat growing up in Louisville and was always going to Kentucky Colonels games whenever I could beg, borrow or talk my future father-in-law out of his seats. I remember going to a playoff game one Sunday evening. The Colonels were in a rather tight game when 'Mr. Excitement' Wendell Ladner checked in. He hadn't been in the game but a few minutes when he made one of his patented diving saves of an errant pass directly in front the the Colonels bench. He saved the ball but crashed back first into the water cooler next to the bench. At this time, the bottles on the top of the cooler were made of glass. The bottle smashed to the floor and Wendell landed on the shards of broken glass. He jumped up quickly and tried to get back to the floor but the trainer stopped him because he was bleeding profusely from gashes in his arm. Play was stopped and Wendell was led to the locker room soaked in blood. The crowd was silent figuring that this was the last they would see of Wendell. Thirty minutes later, he came sprinting back to the bench with as I remember over 100 stitches in his arm. He begged to re-enter the game, but sanity prevailed and Wendell was placed at the end of the bench for his own protection."

Sound Clip -- January 1974: Ladner reacts to being traded from the Kentucky Colonels to the New York Nets

From 1972 to 1974, Wendell Ladner was a fan favorite with the Kentucky Colonels. In January 1974, though, the Colonels suddenly shipped Ladner and Mike Gale to the New York Nets for John Roche. To Ladner, the trade was completely unexpected. While he was happy to join another excellent ABA team, he was shocked and dismayed to be leaving the Louisville area.
At the time of the trade, New York trailed Kentucky in the Eastern Division standings. After adding Ladner and Gale to its roster as dependable reserves, New York surged past Kentucky to win the Eastern Division title and the 1974 ABA Championship.
Streaming RealAudio file -- RealPlayer plug-in required (free download here)
Clip courtesy of Van Vance and used with permission

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