Lloyd “Slick” Sandstrom, 89, a longtime St. Paul high school teacher who was drafted by the New York Knicks in the 1950s, died June 13 of Alzheimer’s disease in Woodbury.
Sandstrom was drafted in the fourth round by the Knicks in 1951, the 36th player chosen. Al McGuire, who would later coach Marquette University to an NCAA championship, was picked 20 spots later in the same draft.
“The Knicks coach was impressed with his ball handling and shooting ability, and he wasn’t afraid to shoot,” said his son, Kevin, of Woodbury. “He had a soft touch and was excellent at shooting off one foot on the run.”
But Sandstrom never played for the Knicks. He was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War while in training camp. When he returned from the service, he played some exhibition games and decided not to stay on with the team.
“I remember going through some pictures of him with the Knicks when I was younger. I never had an idea he was drafted,” his son said. “When I asked him about it, he said it was something he enjoyed but didn’t feel the need to tell people about it.”
Sandstrom, who won his nickname because of his well-groomed hair and prowess on the basketball court, was raised on a farm near Granite Falls, Minn.
He graduated from Mechanic Arts High School in St. Paul, where he set several basketball records and averaged nearly 20 points a game in his senior year.
He attended the College of St. Thomas on a full basketball scholarship despite the concerns of his father, Carl, who took some issue with his Lutheran son attending a Catholic school and suspected the scholarship came with strings attached, Kevin Sandstrom said.
The 1948-49 St. Thomas team that Sandstrom played on shared the MIAC conference title with powerhouse Hamline University, which had three future NBA players on its roster.
That St. Thomas team became the first to reach the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national tournament in Kansas City, and Sandstrom was the first Tommy basketball player to reach 1,000 points in his career.
After the service, Sandstrom worked at Hamm’s Brewery in St. Paul for about a decade. But he always wanted to teach and got a job at Johnson High School in St. Paul, where he taught physical education, social studies and history.
He also coached basketball and cross-country, but Johnson was a hockey school and the basketball team didn’t fare too well, his son said.
“At his visitation, a former player said he always appreciated that Dad was stern and fair,” he said.
Sandstrom retired in 1988, and he made time to attend his son’s basketball games at Hamline. He was inducted into the University of St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame as an individual and a member of the 1948-49 team. He also was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame at Mancini’s, the longtime West End steakhouse in St. Paul.
Kevin Sandstrom described his father as a man of integrity and faith who liked to joke and tell stories and could fill a room with his boisterous laugh.
He enjoyed fishing, hunting and playing cards, and he and his late wife, Arlene, were known for dancing the polka and waltz.
Besides his son Kevin, Sandstrom is survived by another son, Kurt, of Burnsville; a daughter, Mindy Erdal, of Burnsville; a sister, Florence Kruse, of Zumbrota, and a brother, Carl, of White Bear Lake.
Services have been held.