The University of Notre Dame men’s basketball program has announced that Kelly Tripucka (1977-81) will be inducted into the Purcell Pavilion Ring of Honor on February 1, 2020. A three-time All-American and 12th-leading scorer in school history, Tripucka will be the ninth men’s basketball addition to the Ring of Honor, which is the highest honor the program can bestow on a former student-athlete or coach.
Tripucka was an energizing force during one of the most successful periods of men’s basketball at the University of Notre Dame. A Notre Dame legacy, Tripucka’s father, Frank, was a standout quarterback for the Fighting Irish football team and an NFL first-round draft pick in 1949. After a remarkable prep career at Bloomfield High School, Tripucka helped the Irish compile a 92-26 four-year record with each of Tripucka’s teams appearing in the NCAA tournament.
A versatile and athletic player who could drive by slower defenders, post up smaller defenders and shoot over any player, Tripucka saved his more noteworthy performances for Notre Dame’s top-ranked opponents. As a rookie he secured his spot in a talented starting lineup with a 15-point second half against defending national champion and top-ranked Marquette (Feb. 26, 1978) as the Irish erased a 14-point lead for a 65-59 victory.
Later that year Tripucka was named the Most Valuable Player of the Midwest Regional that propelled Notre Dame to the 1978 Final Four by scoring 20 points against Utah in the Sweet 16, then putting up 18 points and 11 rebounds in the Elite Eight victory over rival DePaul.
He also led Notre Dame by scoring 28 points in the legendary double overtime victory over top-ranked and undefeated DePaul (25-0) on February 27, 1980 – a contest considered to this day as one of the most thrilling in the history of Purcell Pavilion.
Upon the completion of his four years at Notre Dame, Tripucka was fourth on the all-time scoring list (1,719), fifth in field goal percentage (.548), third in free throw percentage (.798) and third in free throws made (461). He owns the Notre Dame single-game record for free throws attempted and made, connecting on 23 of 26 attempts against Dayton on February 3, 1979. Tripucka’s teams at Notre Dame claimed 11 wins over top-10 teams including three victories over a top-ranked team (Marquette, DePaul and Virginia).
Tripucka was selected 12th overall by the Detroit Pistons in the 1981 NBA Draft. He earned an all-star berth in his rookie season and spent five successful seasons in Detroit before being traded to the Utah Jazz for Purcell Pavilion Ring of Honor inductee and former teammate Adrian Dantley. After two seasons with the Jazz, Tripucka helped launch the expansion Charlotte Hornets franchise, leading the team with 22.6 points per game during the franchise’s inaugural season.
Over his 10 seasons in the NBA, Tripucka scored 12,142 points (17.2 per game) with 2,703 rebounds and 2,090 assists while earning two All-Star game selections.
Inducted into the National Polish-American Hall of Fame in 2000, Tripucka also has been named the New Jersey Star-Ledger “New Jersey Boys’ Basketball Player of the Century’ and in 2008 was named to the “50 Greatest Pistons” team.
Tripucka will be honored at halftime of the Notre Dame – Georgia Tech game on February 1, 2020. The game is scheduled to tip off at 12 noon ET.
#44 Kelly Tripucka, 6-7, 210, Bloomfield High School
Notre Dame statistical ranks:
- Free Throws Made and Attempted, Game – 1st (23-26 vs. Dayton, 2/3/1979)
- Free Throws Made, Career – 8th (461)
- Free Throws Attempted, Career – 9th (578)
- Field Goal Percentage, Career – 9th (.548)
- Free Throw Percentage, Season – 10th (.854 in 1978-79)
- Field Goals Made, Career – 10th (629)
- Points, Career – 12th (1,719)
- Free Throw Percentage, Career – 13th (.795)