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1955 USA Men's Pan American Games Team


  • Date:
    Jun 10, 2010

Mexico City, Mexico • March 12-26, 1955 

After capturing the gold medal in the inaugural Pan American Games, the United States entered the 1955 Games at Mexico City, Mexico, eager to repeat. Although the USA suffered its first defeat in Pan American competition, the team regrouped and won its final three games to capture the 1955 gold medal.

1955 USA RESULTS (4-1)

USA 78 Brazil 49
Argentina 54 USA 53
USA 85 Mexico 55
USA 84 Cuba 56
USA 72 Venezuela 29


1. USA (4-1)* 4. Mexico (2-3)
2. Argentina (4-1)* 5. Cuba (1-4)
3. Brazil (4-1)* 6. Venezuela (0-5)
*Final standings determined by point differential between tied teams.

As was the case in 1951, selection of the 1955 USA Pan American Games basketball team was again no easy task. Originally, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced that the 1955 Pan American Games team would consist of five AAU players, four college players and five players from the Armed Forces.

But because of the game's March competition dates, college student-athletes could not compete. Instead, the U.S. Olympic Committee decided that the 1955 team would consist of seven players from the AAU and seven players from the U.S. Armed Forces. The 1954 AAU champion Peoria Caterpillars were unavailable because they were representing the USA at the 1955 World Championship, so the 1954 AAU runner-up Grihalva Buicks of San Diego, California, were chosen. A camp featuring 20 of the Armed Forces' top players was held at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (OH) to determine the Armed Forces' seven players.

A series of games between the Grihalva Buicks and the Armed Forces took place in San Diego to determine who would serve as head coach. Lt. Norman Pilgrim was selected as the head coach after his armed forces team claimed two wins over the AAU team, and AAU coach Fon Johnson was named the assistant.

Opening the round-robin competition facing Brazil, the U.S. led 30-27 at half and broke the game wide open in the second half and went on to claim a 78-49 win as Melvin Kelley and Donald Byrd paced the U.S. with 14 and 13 points each. Facing Argentina next, the USA squad fell behind early and at half trailed 29-23. Argentina expanded its lead to as many as 12 midway in the third quarter, but the U.S. rallied and took a one-point lead with about a minute to play. However, three consecutive turnovers doomed the U.S. to its first loss, 54-53. Byrd led the U.S. with 19 points, while Robert Williams added 14.

The U.S. regrouped to claim convincing wins in its final three games. Behind Robert Kenney's 17 points and 15 points from John Hoverder, the U.S. easily disposed of host Mexico 85-55. Cuba proved no problem either as the Americans won 84-56 as Williams poured in 24 points to lead the way. The USA's final game was another lopsided victory as the U.S. captured a 72-29 win over Venezuela as Williams scored 16 points and 12 of the USA's 14 players scored.

Thanks to Brazil's 61-57 win over Argentina, the United States, Brazil and Argentina all finished with identical records of 4-1 and in a three-way tie for first. The final medal standings were determined on the point spread between the three teams in their games against each other. Relying on this system, the United States was declared the winner of the gold medal with a plus 28, while Argentina, with a minus three, earned the silver and Brazil, minus 25, was awarded the bronze.


Donald Byrd G 6-3 170   U.S. Armed Forces (Central H.S.) Cleveland, OH
Ron Faulkner C/F 6-5 215   Grihalva Buicks (Pepperdine) Anaheim, CA
James Hoverder F 6-6 185 24 Grihalva Buicks (Cent. Mo. St.) Kansas City, MO
Melvin Kelley G 6-0 170 21 U.S. Armed Forces (Kansas) McClune, KS
Robert Kenney G 6-2 185 20 U.S. Armed Forces (Kansas) Winfield, KS
Robert LeBuhn F 6-4 205   Grihalva Buicks (Northwestern) Davenport, IA
Kenneth Leslie F 6-2   29 Grihalva Buicks (San Diego) San Francisco, CA
Locke Olson F 6-6 185 29 Grihalva Buicks (Pomona College) Upland, CA
James Paxson F 6-6 198 22 U.S. Armed Forces (Dayton) Springfield, OH
James Poole G 6-0 175 22 Grihalva Buicks (San Diego St.) Long Beach, CA
Paul Rundell G 6-3 170 26 Grihalva Buicks (San Diego St.) Lakewood, OH
Cecil Silas F 6-6 180 22 U.S. Armed Forces (Ga. Tech) Miami, FL
Alva Wilfong F 6-2 185   U.S. Armed Forces (Memphis St.) Puxico, MO
Robert Williams F 6-6 230 24 U.S. Armed Forces (Florida A&M)  
HEAD COACH: Lt. Norman Pilgrim, U. S. Armed Forces (Sheppard Air Force Base)
ASSISTANT COACH: Fon Johnson, Grihalva Buicks (San Diego, CA)
MANAGER: Maj. Roy Johnson, U.S. Air Force


Robert Williams 5 24-   22- 34 .647 70/ 14.0
Robert Kenney 5 27-   8- 17 .471 62/ 12.4
Donald Byrd 5 20-   8- 11 .727 48/ 9.6
James Hoverder 5 17-   9- 12 .750 43/ 8.6
Alva Wilfong 5 14-   8- 15 .533 36/ 7.2
Melvin Kelley 5 12-   10- 14 .714 34/ 6.8
Cecil Silas 4 8-   4- 6 .667 20/ 5.0
Ron Faulkner 5 10-   3- 5 .600 23/ 4.6
James Paxson 5 3-   10- 14 .714 16/ 3.2
Kenneth Leslie 4 5-   2- 8 .250 12/ 3.0
Paul Rundell 2 0-   3- 3 1.000 3/ 1.5
Locke Olson 3 2-   0- 2 .000 4/ 1.3
James Poole 3 0-   1- 3 .333 1/ 0.3
Robert LeBuhn 1 0-   0- 0 .000 0/ 0.0
USA  5 142-   88-144 .611 372/ 74.4
OPP.  5 87-   69-139 .496 243/ 48.6

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