Among all-time great Hoosiers, William Gladness does not conjure the sort of memories that IU fans have of legends such as Steve Alford, Isiah Thomas, or Calbert Cheaney, or even of his teammates AJ Guyton and Kirk Haston. Still, Gladness, a juco transfer from West Memphis, Arkansas, was a solid contributor during his career. As a junior, he averaged 8.6 points and 5.1 rebounds, shooting 54 percent. As a senior, he averaged 7.8 points and 5.4 rebounds and again led the team by shooting 56 percent.
Gladness overcame much adversity before joining the Hoosiers. West Memphis is a town that is, unfortunately, best known for crime and poverty, and Gladness fell victim to it when he was young. He was shot in the abdomen while a teenager, and his spleen was removed. Despite the sort of personal and medical adversity that might have (and has) ruined many young men, Gladness, after two years of junior conference basketball, earned a scholarship to IU and thrived while playing for Bob Knight.
Gladness had a solid IU career, but left the consciousness of most Hoosier fans until, in May 2008, we learned that William Gladness had died. As I said at the time, my first fear, upon reading of his death and recalling his tough circumstances, was that he had fallen victim to his past. That proved to be true, somewhat. As the Arkansas Democrat reported, Gladness died of a bacterial infection that his body could not fight because of the removal of his spleen following that long-ago gunshot. Still, if an obituary can be said to have good news, Gladness's did, because it showed that he had used his own experience, a difficult childhood combined with his basketball experiences, to make a difference in the lives of children who were in tough circumstances. Here's more:
Amy Craig wants Will Gladness to receive the credit in death he never seemed to care about in life.
He eventually settled in Fort Smith, where he organized an AAU basketball team made up primarily of players who didn't play much, if at all, for their high school teams. He continued that after moving to Northwest Arkansas in 2001 to work at the Ozark Guidance Center, where he taught preschool children with emotional or behavioral problems.....Gladness ' AAU team was almost totally funded by Gladness himself.
"His character was like a magnet for his kids, and for the adults," Craig said. "He was a helper. I once told him, `You can't change the world,' and he looked at me and said, `Why not ?' I'm sure he would have if he had long enough."
Gladness isn't anywhere near the top of IU's scoring list, but he deserves much credit and remembrance for the way he used his experiences, good and bad, to improve the lives of others.
To see the rest of the Buick Human Highlight Reel, and even share a story of your own, go to ncaa.com/buick. This post is sponsored by Buick.