Ed Kalafat, a Gophers basketball standout who went on to play three years for the Minneapolis Lakers, died Monday.
Kalafat, who lived in St. Paul, was 86.
The Anaconda, Mont., native was one of the first Gophers basketball players from outside the immediate five-state area. Kalafat was all-state in football and basketball at Anaconda High School and led the basketball team to a state championship in 1948.
The 6-6, 240-pound Kalafat was the Gophers’ starting center for three seasons — 1951-52, 1952-53 and 1953-54. He led the Gophers in scoring in his first two seasons and was captain and MVP of the 1953-54 team, which included future NBA players Dick Garmaker and Chuck Mencel.
The Gophers, coached by Ozzie Cowles, were 46-20 overall and 31-15 in the Big Ten — finishing in third place each season — during Kalafat’s three seasons. One of the highlights was in the 1951-52 season, when Kalafat scored 30 points to lead the Gophers to a 61-57 victory over No. 1-ranked Kentucky, the defending NCAA champion.
Following his senior season, he was selected in the first round (ninth overall) of the 1954 NBA draft by the Minneapolis Lakers. He spent three seasons with the Lakers, averaging 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Following the 1956-57 season, the Lakers traded him to Detroit.
Kalafat, who had started a career in banking and was in the Army Reserve, retired. He eventually rose to the rank of captain and had a long career with First Bank Systems.
“First Bank Systems was a client of our [public relations] firm,” Dave Mona said. “From time to time that meant a telephone conversation with bank presidents around the system. I always signed up for the calls to Montana and Ed. We’d talk business for maybe five minutes and then Ed would ask about the Twin Cities and the Gophers. Will the Timberwolves ever be any good? How do the Gophers look? I always enjoyed those conversations. He came across as a very nice guy.”
Kalafat is a member of the “M” Club Hall of Fame and was a charter member of the Montana High School Association Athletes Hall of Fame.
Kalafat is survived by daughters Kelly Maurer, Lisa Kalafat and Amy Pinotti; seven grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and sister Eileen. His funeral will be held Oct. 16 at Lumen Christi Catholic Church in St. Paul.