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Knights Under Lights: Phil Sellers

Phill Sellers will forever be one of the all-time greats of the Rutgers men's basketball team. – Photo by Ice You

In Knights Under Lights, The Daily Targum looks at players who distinguished themselves during their time on the Banks.

The late Phil Sellers was many things for the Rutgers basketball team — its star player, an assistant coach, a winner and, most importantly, a leader and mentor. In his four seasons with the Scarlet Knights, "Phil the Thrill" set a standard of athletic excellence that has yet to be met in the five decades since his time on the Banks.

From the moment the 6-foot-4 forward stepped foot on the hardwood in 1972, his talent was evident. The Brooklyn native averaged 19.5 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game in his freshman season, leading Rutgers to the National Invitation Tournament.

Sellers somehow managed to improve in his second season on the Banks, bumping up his scoring average from 19.5 to 23.2 points per game. The Knights would finish the season 18-8 before ultimately losing to Utah in their second consecutive NIT appearance.

In the 1974-1975 season, Rutgers finally got ranked in the AP poll and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in team history. Sellers averaged an outstanding 22.7 points per game. In the NCAA Tournament, the Knights lost to Louisville in the first round.

Three seasons of program-wide improvement culminated in what many consider to be Rutgers' best season in program history during Sellers' fourth and final season on the Banks. During the 1975-1976 season, the Knights went undefeated in the regular season for the first and only time in program history, while the senior guard averaged a double-double once again.

Rutgers concluded the 1975-76 season fourth in the AP Poll, and the team remains 1 of only 2 teams in program history to be ranked in the season's final AP Poll. 

Sellers enjoyed similar recognition, being named a second-team consensus All-American.

The Knights started its postseason with back-to-back wins over Long Island University and St. John's in the conference tournament. 

In the NCAA Tournament, Rutgers won three straight games to set up a meeting with Michigan in the Final Four. In the Final Four, the Knights' undefeated streak was finally broken, losing to the Wolverines by a score of 86-70. Sellers scored 11 points and added eight rebounds in the loss. 

Rutgers also lost the third-place game to UCLA by a score of 106-92. Despite the disappointing end, the 1975-76 team remains the most successful and dominant team in program history.

Sellers concluded his career with the Knights as the program's all-time leading scorer and rebounder with 2,399 points and 1,115 boards, respectively. Those records still stand and may never be broken.

His iconic number 12 jersey was retired in 1988, and he is only 1 of 3 men's basketball players to have their jerseys retired. Sellers was inducted into the Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993.

Sellers was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the fourth pick in the third round of the 1976 NBA Draft. In his first and only season in the NBA, Sellers averaged 4.5 points per game in 44 games with the Pistons.

Sellers would later take his talents overseas to the Netherlands, signing and concluding his professional career with BV Amstelveen in 1979. 

After his professional career, Sellers became an assistant coach at Rutgers for four seasons.

Despite a short professional career, Sellers remains arguably the greatest Knight and basketball player ever to don the scarlet and white.

Sellers died last week at 69, leaving a hole in the Rutgers community that will never be filled. Sellers forged a lasting legacy in the hearts and minds of Rutgers basketball fans across the country — his impact will never be forgotten, and his records will likely never be broken.

"Phil Sellers is Rutgers royalty," said head coach Steve Pikiell. "He is the greatest player on the greatest team in our program's history. His jersey is one of three that hang up in the rafters at Jersey Mike's Arena. He was the ultimate role model for our current Scarlet Knights."

For more updates on Knights Under Lights, follow @TargumSports on X.

To view more of Jackson DiLullo's work, follow @jackson_dilullo on X.

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