Frank Russell, a former college basketball star who played pro before making a bigger impact in Oakland County, died Monday at the age of 72.
After playing high school basketball at Pontiac Central High School, Russell played three seasons for the University of Detroit Mercy Titans from 1969 to 1972, where he scored 1,188 points – the seventh highest in history. from school when he graduated.
He was inducted into the Titans Hall of Fame in 2020.
U of D athletic director Robert Vowels learned of Russell’s death on Wednesday. The vowels called him a “type of the salt of the earth type”.
“I was shocked when I heard the news,” Vowels said. “I’m so sad about this because we just inducted him into the Hall of Fame before COVID, so things were going well and on the rise. Everything was going well for him. He is an iconic figure in Detroit Mercy basketball.
The Chicago Bulls drafted Russell in the third round of the 1972. He played one season with the franchise, scoring a career-high 11 points against the Detroit Pistons at Cobo Arena.
His brothers, Campy and Walker Russell, played college basketball at the University of Michigan and West Michigan, respectively. They also played in the NBA.
After his basketball career, Russell became a youth counselor, attended law school and founded the Youth Development Institute in Pontiac. He has also worked for Oakland County for over three decades in the human resources field.
In 2007, Russell founded the Pontiac News. Six years later, he failed to become mayor of Pontiac, losing to the current mayor Deirdre Waterman.
“All Pontiac recognizes the Russell family for their loyalty to the city, as well as for their myriad contributions as well as for the athletic talent to which they are legendary,” Waterman told The Oakland Press.
She said she knew Russell as a friend, businessman and community leader. Isaiah Jackson, also of Pontiac, was drafted in this year’s NBA Draft almost four decades after Russell himself was drafted.
“It has been 41 years since the coat has been passed down from generation to generation,” she said.
Pontiac mayoral candidates Tim Greimel and Alexandria T. Riley, who clash in November, have made statements on Facebook regarding Russell’s death.
“Pontiac has lost a legend with the passing of Frank Russell,” said Greimel, thanking Russell for his service and saying he will be sorely missed.
Riley said she was heartbroken to learn of Russell’s death, saying he dedicated his life to his family and community and set high standards.
“Personally, I appreciated his wise advice,” Riley said. “I cherished his trust and support. I have benefited from his encouragement and wisdom. Our city has lost a great leader whose presence will be missed, but the legacy of his contributions will last for generations. The Russell family have lost their patriarch, a feat of strength and support in good times and bad.
Dave Coulter, Oakland County Director, said in a statement that Russell is a champion of diversity.
“His strong presence in county government will be missed,” Coulter said. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones. “