Who Was Si Green, the Player Selected Before Boston Celtics Legend Bill Russell in the 1956 NBA Draft?

Although Sihugo “Si” Green isn’t considered a bust, he’ll always be a top draft pick that never lived up to expectations. That doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Green himself. It’s all because of the man drafted right behind him.

After the Rochester Royals took Green with the first pick in the 1956 NBA Draft, the St. Louis Hawks grabbed the legendary Bill Russell, who was quickly traded to the Boston Celtics. Russell, of course, went on to become one of the NBA’s greatest of all time, winning 11 championships. But what happened to Green?

Si Green had a stellar career at Duquesne University

Si Green of the Cincinnati Royals goes for the layup as Jack McMahon of the St. Louis Hawks defends during an NBA game on November 2, 1958, at the Cincinnati Gardens in Cincinnati, Ohio. | Hy Peskin/Getty Images.

Green, a 6-foot-2 guard, played three seasons at Duquesne, averaging 22.0 and 24.5 points in his final two seasons. In 1955, he guided the Dukes to a championship in the National Invitation Tournament. In the championship game, Green had 33 points in a 70-58 win over Dayton at a sold-out Madison Square Garden. Back then, the NIT was the top college basketball tournament.

Duquesne was led by the athletic Green and 6-foot-8 senior center Dick Ricketts. It was Green’s quick first step that made him so effective, although he could still shoot from the outside.

“Si’s touch outside with a line-drive jumper was pretty good, but he could tell you he was going around you, and he’d still get around you,” said John “Red” Manning, an assistant coach on that ’55 team, per The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He would give you a fake and a real big first stride.

“Si was his own man. He would play hard against tough teams, ease up on teams he knew he could beat.”

Manning said Green was talented, but he was also quite superstitious.

“Si never said a word,” Manning said. “He always wore his jumping socks, those thick gray ones with green trim. The kind hunters wear. That was his superstition.”

Green was a consensus two-time, first-team All-American. His No. 11 jersey is retired by the school.

Green was a forgotten man after Russell’s success

Green played 13 games for the Royals in his rookie year. After averaging 11.5 points and 5.2 rebounds as a rookie, he missed the following season because of military duty with the U.S. Army. When he returned to the NBA, he played 20 games for the Cincinnati Royals before being traded to the Hawks.

He spent four seasons with the Hawks, averaging 7.5 points, before he was dealt to the Chicago Packers. In 1965, Green was traded by the Baltimore Bullets (formerly the Chicago Packers/Zephyrs) to the Celtics, where he played one season.

In all, Green played nine seasons in the NBA, averaging 9.2 points and 4.3 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Russell won five MVPs and 11 titles with the Celtics. He averaged 15.1 points and 22.5 rebounds in his 13-year career.

Green died in October 1980 at age 47.

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