During the summer of 1967 the campers and staff at Saginaw were entertained by a visit by Baltimore Bullets Leroy Ellis and Jack Marin. Much in the tradition of previous special events like the visit of Wilt Chamberlain in 1959 and the Harlem Wizards in 1971 this was a great chance to get up close and personal with sports stars of the day.
Ellis and Marin were totally involved with the campers and staff. Meetin’ and greetin’, signing autographs, and doing basketball skills demonstrations and clinics. Marin’s ability to knock down the long range jumper was astounding and Leroy’s above the rim game was something to behold.
Jack Marin had come the Baltimore Bullets the previous year out of Duke and immediately had an impact on their team. At 6-7 he had the sweet left-handed long range shot in the era before the three-point line, and was a solid addition for the Bullets. He plied a 9.6 point average in 18 minutes-per-game in 1966 followed by a jump to 13.5 points in 24 minutes-per-game his second year. He was fast becoming an essential scoring threat off the bench for a team on the rise.
Leroy Ellis at 6-10 was a huge man. Kathy Aberman, who is married to a huge man, was in awe of his size when Leroy unfolded to his full height stepping out of their car when they arrived at the Canteen.
Leroy was a significant force in the league when he was drafted 6th by the Lakers in the 1962 coming out of St. Johns. He was traded to the Bullets in 1966 and became a starter immediately playing 36 minutes-per-game with almost 12 rebounds in his first two years and averaged 14.9 and 12.4 points in 1966 and 1967 respectively.
His stock rose so rapidly with the Bullets that the fledgling ABA New Jersey Americans tried to sign Leroy to a $30,000 contract in the summer of 1967 which would have made him one of the first players to jump to the new league. But the Bullets had him under contract with an option to extend before September 1st and they successfully sued to retain his services in the NBA as a result. Leroy remained an important role player for the Bullets until they traded him in 1970.
The Baltimore Bullets under Coach Gene Shue were a steadily rising club starting in 1966 when Ellis and Marin arrived. The team already had Gus Johnson, Ray Scott, and Kevin Loughery but they clearly needed help. The season after this Ellis-Marin event at Saginaw was critical to the Bullets because, with the addition of the electric offense of Earl “The Pearl” Monroe’s 24 points-per-game, this team went from 20 wins in 1966-67 to 36 wins in 1967-68.
It took one more critical piece of the puzzle to get the Bullets over the line. In 1968 they drafted a gifted rebounder and defensive force in 6-7, 245-pound Wes Unseld out of Louisville. Wes made an immediate impact on the league and the Bullet’s fortunes as he added 18 rebounds and 15 points a game as a rookie. The Bullets rocketed to 57 wins that year and 1st place in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks-Bullets Rivalry was born and every April it would be the talk of the Eastern Conference.
Jack Marin remained part of the formula until he was traded in 1974 to the Houston Rockets for Elvin Hayes. Leroy Ellis became an Unseld casualty as he saw his minutes and production diminish in 1968/69 and by 1970 was traded to the Portland Trailblazers.
Note: All stat information from http://www.basketball-reference.com