Just four years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Solly Walker made history of his own becoming the first African-American to play at St. John’s.
On Sunday, Walker is set to be honored at the El Caribe Country Club in southeastern Brooklyn by the Brooklyn U.S.A. Athletic Association.
Walker was a 6-foot-4 guard and a native of Bedford-Stuyvesant, which is where the St. John’s campus was located at the time.
Walker, who died this past May, is also believed to be the first African-American player to play at University of Kentucky.
A New York Times column written in 1994 by Dave Anderson said that Adolph Rupp told then St. John’s head coach Frank McGuire “You can’t bring that boy down here to Lexington.” McGuire than insisted the game be canceled, to which Rupp agreed to play.
Walker would fall to an injury, but not before hitting six shots.
After Walker’s death, legendary St. John’s head coach Lou Carnesecca told the AP “he handled himself so well the way he was treated at Kentucky.”
After averaging over 15 points on a freshman team that had a record of 17-2, McGuire's decision to call Walker up to the varsity team paid off. Walker averaged seven points and six boards during the season where St. John’s made it to the NIT title game. Then, as a senior Walker averaged 14 points per game.
He was drafted by the New York Knicks, but Walker declined and entered into a career in the New York City public school’s system, where he would eventually work his way up to a high school in Manhattan.
The event on Sunday plans to honor the life of Walker and the impact he had, while also handing out scholarships to two students in Brooklyn.
In addition to Walker and other former NYC basketball standouts, Carnesecca will also be inducted into the Brooklyn U.S.A. Athletic association Hall of fame.