Florida Gators center Neal Walk, the highest-drafted player in the basketball program’s history, passed away Sunday night at the age of 67, according to AZ Central Sports.
Walk, the No. 2 overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft out of Florida, was a senior captain for the Gators under Tommy Barlett and led the basketball program to its first postseason appearance, the 1969 NIT.
At the time of his departure from Florida, after being named the team’s first All-American, the lefty was the programs all-time leading scorer. To this day, he is the Gators’ rebounding leader (1,181) and holds team records for most rebounds in a game (31), average points per game (20.8) and rebounds per game (15.3) for a career.
As such, he is a Gator Great of the UF Athletic Hall of Fame, and his jersey number (41) is the only one retired by the program. Walk is also a member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Walk spent the first five seasons of his professional career with the Phoenix Suns before moving on to short stints with the New Orleans Jazz and New York Knicks. He is a member of NBA history for being the player Phoenix selected after losing a draft order coin toss to Milwaukee, which selected Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) with the No. 1 overall pick.
Walk concluded his playing career in Italy and Israel after posting 7,157 points, 4,392 rebounds and 1,214 assists in the NBA. He was the only member of the Suns besides Charles Barkley to average 20 points and 12 rebounds in a single season (1972-73).
More than 27 years ago, Walk was diagnosed with a benign tumor around his spine. He was confined to a wheelchair and continued to play basketball in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. Walk was later honored by George Bush as the Wheelchair Athlete of the Year in 1990 and worked as a member of Phoenix’s community relations department late in his life.
His passing comes after being in “poor health in recent weeks for various medical reasons,” according to AZ Central Sports. He passed away in a Phoenix hospital.