VCU to ‘re-retire’ Charles Wilkins’ jersey

VCU Athletics announced that the No. 40 jersey of VCU’s first superstar player, Charles “Jabo” Wilkins, will be “re-retired” at a ceremony during the Rams’ home finale Feb. 28 against Saint Louis.

The program announced the jersey ceremony in a press release on Feb. 23.

A Richmond native, Wilkins attended high school at Maggie L. Walker High School – which stands just over half a mile from the Stuart C. Siegel Center. Wilkins went on to attend Fayetteville State University before transferring to VCU in 1968 in the university’s first year of operation after the merger of Richmond Professional Institute and the Medical College of Virginia.

Wilkins became the program’s first superstar, becoming the first and only player in program history to average more than 20 points in three consecutive seasons. His 27.5 points per game average in the 1969-70 season remains a program record, followed closely by his 24 points per game average from 1968-69. In sum, Wilkins averaged 23.8 points per game in his career – a VCU record.

In three seasons in black and gold, Wilkins scored 1,716 points, which ranks fourth all-time at VCU. He is the only player in the top ten in career scoring at VCU to play less than four seasons.

Wilkins also holds the record for most points in a game by a VCU player, scoring 45 points in a 106-100 overtime victory over West Liberty State on Dec. 20, 1968. The game was just the 10th in VCU basketball history.

Two seasons later, Wilkins scored 40 points against Virginia Union University on Feb. 22, 1971 – the second 40-point game of his career. Every other player to ever play for VCU combined has three 40-point games, and no individual player has more than one.

Wilkins’ records extend beyond scoring – his 16.6 rebounds per game mark from the 1969-70 season is 3.5 rebounds ahead of the next best season in VCU history. For his career, Wilkins averaged 13.5 rebounds per game — another school record.

In short, the VCU story would be incomplete without telling of the accolades of the 6-foot-3 forward from Maggie Walker.

Wilkins was inducted into the VCU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996 and was named to the VCU 50th anniversary team in 2018. Later that year, Wilkins died at age 70 from complications stemming from a battle with brain cancer.

In recent years, there has been renewed interest in the retiring of Wilkins’ jersey. It is believed that in 1971, VCU head coach and athletic director Chuck Noe retired Wilkins’ jersey in a ceremony at the now-demolished Franklin Street Gym, and displayed the jersey in a case at the gym.

Despite eyewitness and newspaper accounts existing of the event, VCU had no record of the event occurring, and the whereabouts of the jersey and display case are unknown. Wilkins’ jersey has never been included among those displayed at the Siegel Center, which opened in 1999.

In 2020, the Richmond Free Press reported that there were two road blocks to honoring Wilkins. First, the university lacked an official record of the jersey retirement.

Second, VCU records indicated that Wilkins did not graduate, which was said to be a requirement for jersey retirement.

Three years later, VCU is poised to lift Wilkins’ jersey into the rafters.

“Through an exhaustive amount of research and conversations with former student-athletes, former employees and long-time supporters, we determined that Jabo not only had his jersey retired already but deserved to have a rightful place in the Siegel Center rafters,” VCU Director of Athletics Ed McLaughlin said via release. “We look forward to welcoming his family back to VCU and celebrating this day with them.”

Wilkins’ No. 40 will be the seventh men’s jersey honored in the Siegel Center, joining Eric Maynor (No. 3), Calvin Duncan (No. 5), Bradford Burgess (No. 20), Treveon Graham (No. 21), Gerald Henderson (No. 22) and Kendrick Warren (No. 23).