LAWRENCE, Kan. – Former Kansas men’s basketball player, LaVannes Squires, died Feb. 19 at the age of 90, in Pasadena, Calif. Squires was the first African-American men’s basketball student-athlete at Kansas, and a member of KU’s 1952 NCAA National Championship team.
“LaVannes was a true trailblazer for Kansas men’s basketball and Kansas Athletics,” Director of Athletics Jeff Long said. “He left an indelible impression from the first day he stepped on this campus in 1950, and continued to be a great ambassador for KU throughout his life. Not only did LaVannes break down the walls of color at KU, he did so with great success in the banking industry for many decades after his graduation. We are so thankful for LaVannes Squires and his legacy that will never be forgotten.”
“LaVannes Squires is important to the history of this program,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “Primarily, he paved the way and opened doors for many to follow. In large part, he is even more important to the history of college basketball because if he hadn’t come here, I doubt that Wilt (Chamberlain) would have come here. And that helped shape the landscape of the history of our game. It would never get as good as it is now without somebody like LaVannes Squires.”
Born in Hartsdale, Missouri, Squires, who was the eighth of 12 children, was raised in Wichita, Kansas, playing for former KU great Ralph Miller at Wichita East High School.
Squires lettered three seasons at KU from 1952-54 under head coach Phog Allen. He appeared in 33 games in his career. In 1950-51 Squires earned KU’s Freshman Basketball Award. With Squires on the team, Kansas won the 1952 NCAA championship, three Big Seven regular-season titles and two Big Seven Holiday Tournaments.
Following KU, Squires worked in the accounting office for Look Magazine in Des Moines, Iowa. Squires would then become a successful businessman in the banking industry, first at Douglass State Bank in Kansas City, Kansas, then to Swope Parkway National Bank in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1964, Squires started as chief executive officer at Bank of Finance and would later become president of the bank. In 1975, Black Enterprise Magazine listed Bank of Finance as part of its list of 100 largest black-owned and/or black managed businesses in the United States. Following his banking career, Squires started L.C. Squires Real Estate Company, Inc., in Los Angeles. He later created a postal center in his Los Angeles community and following retirement Squires participated in real estate and trading opportunities right up until his passing.
In a 2016 Once a Jayhawk feature on KU basketball great Nolen Ellison, Ellison was quoted: “The influence of early black KU athletes like LaVannes Squires, Wilt Chamberlain, Maurice King and Bill Bridges had addressed the several issues of race that confronted American sports in the late 40s and 50s.”