2019 W Association Hall of Fame Inductee Profile - Mel Riebe '55

Mel Riebe

While basketball was his first love, Mel Riebe starred on the golf team at The College of Wooster upon enrolling as a 34-year-old. That's because due to his pre-Wooster career, Riebe didn't have amateur status in baseball or basketball.

After a brief baseball career didn't pan out, Riebe turned his attention to basketball. A standout for the Cleveland Chase Brassmen and the Cleveland Allman Transfers, Riebe led the National Basketball League in scoring during the 1943-44 and 1944-45 seasons, thanks to a "deadly hook shot from either side of the basket," and "a remarkable collection of fakes and dexterous moves under the basket," per his writeup in Pro Basketball Encyclopedia. The two-time all-league performer was named to the all-star team for the 1944 Chicago world tournament.

Like many professional athletes at the time, Riebe served his country during World War II. While stationed at the Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois, Riebe played for the Great Lakes Navy Team, which included the likes of NFL Hall of Famer Bud Grant and legendary University of Notre Dame head football coach Ara Parseghian. Upon returning home, Riebe laced it up for Cleveland's entry in the new Basketball Association of America. After the team folded at the conclusion of the season, he signed with the Boston Celtics, which at the time played in the BAA. Right after Riebe hung it up professionally, the Celtics were one of the teams that merged to form the National Basketball Association.

With the Celtics, Riebe played in 81 games, scored 912 points, and dished out 145 assists. He later wrapped up his professional career with the Providence Steamrollers, returned home after the birth of his daughter, Maryanne, and then decided to attend college.

Riebe enrolled at Wooster for the spring semester in 1951, but he had to wait out the compliance process regarding what sports he could and couldn't play due to his professional career. Once that was sorted out, Riebe made his golf debut in 1952. His contributions on the links stood out from the get-go and he averaged 78.2 strokes over three years. In his first season, Riebe turned in an unblemished 10-0 mark in dual matches as the Scots' No. 2 and helped Wooster to a runner-up finish at the conference championship. A year later, despite a 4-5-2 head-to-head record against the oppositions' top men, Riebe finished in a three-way tie for medalist honors at 76 at the conference championships. In 1954, Riebe helped the Scots win the Ohio Conference title in his final season on the links. Wooster's 621 bested Ohio Wesleyan University's 628, giving the program what's believed to be its first-ever conference title. In dual matches, Riebe picked up six more wins while anchoring the team from the No. 1 position.

Even more impressive was Riebe's superior time management while enrolled at the College. The father-of-three majored in physical education and commuted from Homerville, Ohio, where he helped out at his in-laws' gas station. While enrolled as a student, he even helped out as a football coach when John Swigart was on leave.

After graduation, Riebe embarked on a career in education, serving as the athletic director and coach at nearby Waynedale High School. Riebe, who died in 1977, is survived by his daughter, Maryanne, several grandchildren – including fellow W Association Hall of Famer Erich Riebe '92 – and several great-grandchildren.