According to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, Vern Mikkelsen was "one of the game's first true power forwards at both the college and professional level."
The 6-foot-7 Mikkelsen was rewarded with honors from both the College Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Mikkelsen, who grew up in Askov, Minn., enrolled at Hamline in 1945. During his three varsity seasons with the Pipers, the Pipers won two MIAC titles and he was named all-conference each season. After Pipers won the NAIA national tournament in 1949, Mikkelsen was named an All-American. The Pipers were 78-11 in Mikkelsen's three seasons.
Mikkelsen was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers in 1949. He spent the next 10 seasons with the Lakers, playing on four NBA championship teams and playing in six NBA All-Star games.
"Everyone said, 'How's Mikkelsen going to get on the court, when you have the best center ever in George Mikan?' That's how Mikkelsen became the first-ever power forward in basketball," former Lakes coach John Kundla told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2013. "To play facing the basket, he developed an overhead, two-handed shot. If they came out to cover Vern, that would usually leave Mikan one-on-one and Vern would pass the ball into George. If the defense stayed back, Vern would take the overhead shot."
During his NBA career, Mikkelsen averaged 14.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
After his playing career, Mikkelsen served as coach and general manager of the Minnesota Pipers of the American Basketball Association.
In 1965, Mikkelsen was part of the inaugural class of the Hamline Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1995 he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball College Hall of Fame. In 2006, he joined the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
Teams: Hamline, Minneapolis Lakers.