Who Was Willie Cager? When Did He Pass Away?

Willie Cager, a member of the Texas Western squad that won the national title in 1965–1966, passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 81. Cager passed away exactly 57 years after Texas Western beat Kentucky in the NCAA men’s college basketball final, 72-65.

Willie Cager
Willie Cager; image credit – FOX 2

Willie Cager’s Sports Career

The Adolph Rupp-led Kentucky squad was defeated by Texas Western in the NCAA men’s college basketball championship game in College Park, Maryland, 72-65. Cager provided 8 points and 6 boards in that championship game. The 2006 movie “Glory Road” portrayed Texas Western’s trek to the NCAA championship. Between 1965 and 1968, Cager played in 77 games for the Miners, scoring 8.5 points as well as 5.3 rebounds while competing for head coach Haskins.  Cager was a member of the historic 1966 Texas Western team. Don Haskins, a hall of fame coach, fielded an all-Black starting lineup against Kentucky in the NCAA Final. Five Black players starting in an NCAA championship contest was a first.

Tribute To Willie Cager

“Willie Worsley, another participant of the 1966 squad, claimed that the friendship lasted a lifetime. Cager, who was his roommate and a sophomore at the time of the championship game, was one of the 5 Black starters. Along with Bobby Joe Hill, Orsten Artis, Willie Worsley, and Dave Lattin, Cager began the game. Joe Golding, the head coach at UTEP, said Just how much it mattered to their program. He would show up for exercise, they would be bringing in players and recruits, and that would be it. Everyone talks about it, but he experienced it firsthand and was involved. We will mourn him.

Willie Cager’s Personal Life

Later in life, Cager settled in El Paso and established himself as a pillar of the city. Cager established the Willie Cager Foundation and served as the after-school basketball program supervisor for the Ysleta Independent School District. He has three children: a daughter, Kendra, and two boys, Kareem and Kenya. He joins the deceased head coach Dan Haskins, athletes Harry Flournoy, Bobby Joe Hill, and Orsten Artis as the sixth member of the 1966 squad to pass away.

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