He’d gain national fame in southern California but John Wooden was a Hoosier at heart. A star high school player, he would become a Big Ten legend as a player at Purdue University in the early 1930s.
While Wooden’s personal collection was sold in a well-publicized auction in 2011, few knew that one item dating from those early Boilermaker basketball days was still out there. Quietly residing in the possession of the grandson of one of Wooden’s Indiana chums, a jersey from his college days is expected to sell for $30,000 in Heritage Auctions’ May 17-18 catalog sale.
Wooden would have donned the heavy wool jersey with “Purdue” on the front while playing for Ward “Piggy” Lambert, a legendary coach in his own right who spent nearly 30 years on the Purdue bench. Lambert won his only national championship when Wooden led the Boilers to the title as a senior in 1932. The season capped a career that saw “Johnny” Wooden become a college legend by winning consensus All-American honors three consecutive years, a feat no player had accomplished until that time.
The “Purdue” name is arched across the chest in white and navy felt with the same material forming the number “13” on the back. There’s a Louisville, KY sporting goods supplier label on the interior collar while a Sand Knit manufacturing tag is found on the lower center.
There are some small moth holes and light staining on the body of the jersey while one of the front letters is slightly detached.
The jersey includes a letter of provenance from the consignor, whose grandfather was friends with Wooden at Purdue. The future coaching legend once stayed at his friend’s family farm in northern Indiana when he was traveling to the Indiana state high school basketball tournament.
It also comes with a letter of authenticity from MEARS, who awarded it an A9.
Bidding for the jersey and other items in the auction is set to open on April 25.