Hall of Famer Arnie Risen, known as “Flash” and “Stilts” during his illustrious basketball career, died Aug. 4 in Beechwood, Ohio. Risen, who played basketball at Williamstown High School before playing in the NBA, was 87. He tried out at UK but then played for EKU before transferring to Ohio State where he became an All-American.
The 1942 WHS graduate, who has a street named after him in Williamstown, was recognized by the school district in 1999 by being named a member of the Williamstown Wall of Fame at graduation.
Risen was also named “Alumni of the Year” in 2012.
After graduating, Risen had a try out for University of Kentucky Coach Adolf Rupp, but did not receive a full scholarship offer.
He decided to play basketball at Eastern Kentucky State, now Eastern Kentucky University, in 1942-43 before transferring to Ohio State, where he earned All-Big Ten honors in 1943-44 and All-American honors in 1945-46.
At Ohio State, Risen played on two NCAA Final Four teams.
Risen played with the Indianapolis Kautskys of the old NBL and the NBA’s Rochester Royals and Boston Celtics during his 13 1/2-year professional career.
He played on two championship teams, Rochester in 1950-51 and Boston in 1956-57.
The three-time NBA all star was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998, alongside Larry Bird and others.
“I think the competition for us came naturally,” Risen said about his time at WHS in a Cincinnati Enquirer article after his Hall of Fame induction. “If we were out in the fields pulling weeds, our attitude was, ‘I’ll beat you to the end of the row.’ And that was my attitude when I played basketball, no matter what the level, high school, college or pro.”
To many Risen was larger-than-life, but to his two children, Dennis Risen and Barbara Reisenauer, he was “dad.”
“He was a good sport about everything. He even let his granddaughters put pink curlers in his hair,” Reisenauer said.
“He stayed informed on sports and news and he was interested in everyone, just a real family man.”
Risen enjoyed gardening, plants, animals and playing board games.
“He was more than Mr. Risen, the professional athlete,” she said. “He was genuinely interested in people.”
His daughter said he enjoyed returning to Williamstown and helping his brother, John Risen, work with his Belgian horses.
“Growing up, he was a hero to my friends, but he was just dad to me,” said Dennis. “He’d spend time playing basketball, croquet, golf, just all kind of sports.”
Dennis said his father repeated that same scenario with this grandchildren, especially after he came to live with Dennis and his family.
“He took them to their activities and he liked to spoil them because he was a doting grandpa and he’ll live that way in our memories. Who would have expected an NBA All-Star would be out helping his granddaughter’s deliver Girl Scout cookies?”
Despite his success and that he moved away from Grant County, his children said he always thought of Grant County as home.
“Grant County was where he could relax and be who he was,” said Reisenauer.
“Both he and my mother were rooted in Grant County and Grant County was special to him,” Dennis said.
Risen’s number 17 jersey was retired by WHS and hangs in the trophy case in the high school lobby, along with numerous newspaper clippings and framed articles.
“I was saddened to learn of Mr. Risen’s passing,” said Superintendent Sally Skinner. “As a recipient and member of the Williamstown Independent’s Wall of Fame, Mr. Risen will always be remembered by his alma mater for his outstanding athletic accomplishments. On behalf of the Williamstown Board of Education, staff, students and alumni, our hearts and condolences go out to Mr. Risen’s family.”
Funeral services and visitation will be held Aug. 11 at the Elliston-Stanley Funeral Home in Williamstown with burial in the Williamstown Cemetery.