Black History Month: 13abc Salutes Truman Claytor
Though he holds an esteemed position as the only Toledoan to hold a NCAA division one basketball title, Truman Claytor’s career didn’t start out so successfully.
"My first year playing on the basketball team I got cut from the 7th grade team,” recalls Claytor. “Hung around for three days because I was so ashamed to tell my mother I got cut."
Truman caught the eye of the 8th grade coach who offered to help him with his shooting.
"He said you come to the school at 6:45am and I will teach you how to shoot."
Truman's weekly training schedule was created by Coach Richard Jones. This was his training guide and he followed it religiously.
That next year, the kid that was cut averaged 25 points a game.
Truman's success continued for the bulldogs at Scott High School. He helped his team win a city league championship and he made All Ohio first team, but one of Truman's greatest accomplishments is connected to his main competitor, a football and basketball star at DiVilbiss.
"There was a guy named Terry Crosby, my nemesis in Toledo,” he recalls. “Kentucky was coming to recruit him and Terry had three bad games and one day the assistant coach was talking to his dad and his dad said ‘Hey, my son is having bad games but there's a kid you should see across town his name is Truman Claytor.’"
Truman later caught the eye of the Kentucky coaches after he was named MVP at a National All-Star game in Cleveland. It was a full circle moment for Truman, who moved from Ashland, Kentucky to Toledo in the 4th grade.
"My grandmother was the rock of our family,” he says. “I was very close to her and when she called and said U of K wanted me to play basketball there, that was it. That sold everything. I am going to the U of K. My grandmother wanted to see me play every game."
In 1978, as a junior, Truman helped the Kentucky Wildcats win the NCAA Championship title. The ring represents the highlight of his career. After college, Truman was drafted by the Detroit Pistons and the Philadelphia 76ers, but he was cut.
"After that, I played semi pro and then I had to get a real job."
For 30 years, Truman has worked as a social worker in Toledo, but he's never far from the game he loves.
"I have never been away from the game my entire life,” he says. “I am still refereeing which is still part of the game. My roommate is coaching the Detroit Pistons. I have been truly blessed."
In 2018, Truman Claytor was inducted in the African American Legacy's Sports Hall of Fame. You can see his Kentucky jersey on display and other memorabilia at the African American Legacy Project's museum on Dorr Street.