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Carl Kraushaar, Wooden's first UCLA center, dies

Carl Kraushaar, starting center for the late John Wooden's first two years as coach of UCLA, has died, the school said Saturday.

Kraushaar died of natural causes surrounded by his family in Newport Beach on Thursday, UCLA spokesman Marc Dellins said in a statement. He was 84.

Transferring from Compton College the same year the coach later known as the Wizard of Westwood arrived from Indiana State for the first of his 27 seasons, Kraushaar began what was to become a storied spot — center at UCLA under Wooden. The position would later be filled by Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor, later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

"He was a real pleasure to play for," Kraushaar told his hometown newspaper the Daily Pilot in 2003. "He was a wonderful coach and a wonderful person. Those were his first two years at UCLA. I couldn't have made a better choice for a coach."

As a junior transfer, Kraushaar was the leading scorer on a team that earned a school-record 22 wins in 1948-49. The team won the Pacific Coast Conference Southern Division and lost in the conference championship game.

The following year, Kraushaar was named to the All-PCC team as he led the Bruins to 24 wins, their first conference title and their first NCAA tournament.

Kraushaar was drafted by the Rochester Royals, now the Sacramento Kings, in the 1950 NBA draft, but instead became a high school teacher, coach and administrator, ending his career as a vice principal at LA County's Norwalk High School in 1987.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, four children and five grandchildren.

Wooden slowly built the program into a powerhouse, eventually leading UCLA to seven straight NCAA titles and 10 in 12 years. The legendary coach died last year at age 99.