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Former Pitt basketball star Eric Mobley dies at 51

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Pittsburgh v Georgetown Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Eric Mobley, a former Pitt center and first-round NBA draft pick, died at the age of 51 following a battle with cancer. The news was revealed in an announcement from Mobley's high school and confirmed by Pitt on Wednesday night.

Mobley was born in the Bronx in New York City, and he attended Salesian High School in New Rochelle, New York, where he played for Frank Conroy. At Salesian, the 6’11”, 235-pound center averaged 20.3 points and 11.7 rebounds his senior year and led the team to a 24-3 record and a New York state title. As a result, he was considered the No. 3 center in the nation by the Basketball Times, and he drew scholarship offers from programs across the country. But ultimately, he chose Pitt.

The coveted recruit graduated from Salesian in 1989, but he was forced to sit out his freshman season at Pitt due to Proposition 48. In the interim, Mobley headed to Cumberland, Maryland, where he would attend Allegany Community College and play for Bob Kirk. In the Old Line State, Mobley was part of a dominant team that was nationally ranked. Kirk described it to Karl Hente of the Washington Post as, “potentially the best team we’ve ever had,” and Mobley was a central figure, as he was averaging an 18-point, 13-rebound double-double at one point. But more importantly, he was able to sort out his academic issues, enabling him to move on to Pitt.

Mobley attended Pitt from 1991 to 1994, playing three seasons with the Panthers under Pitt head coach Paul Evans. The 6’11”, 235-pound center became a regular starter as a junior in 1992 and enjoyed a breakout season, averaging 10.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. And as a senior, he solidified his status as a draft pick by posting averages of 13.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. For his efforts, he would win All-Big East honors, but that season, Pitt would fall below .500 for the second time in Evans’ career, and Evans would be dismissed by Pitt, bringing an end to his college coaching career.

After three years in Pittsburgh, Mobley moved onto the professional ranks. The Milwaukee Bucks chose him with the 18th overall pick in the 1994 NBA draft, making him one of eight Pitt products to earn a first-round selection. In Milwaukee, he would play alongside No. 1 overall pick Glenn Robinson on a team that went 34-48. Mobley would make 26 starts and play in 46 games, but with his averages of 3.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, the Bucks sent him to the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1995.

Mobley was sent to Canada along with Eric Murdock in a trade for Benoit Benjamin, and he played on the inaugural Grizzlies team. But in 1997, he was waived by the team, ending his NBA career. He concluded his time in the league with averages of 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game over three seasons.

In 2006, Mobley returned to the Steel City and signed with the Pittsburgh Xplosion of the American Basketball Association. The center’s stint with the team was brief. However, he helped the Xplosion to an 18-11 record, which was the best in the team’s history. Mobley would be one of several Pitt alums to sign with the team, as John DeGroat, Antonio Graves and Carl Krauser all followed suit in 2007.

After his stint in the ABA, Mobley enjoyed a quiet retirement. He is remembered today as one of Pitt’s best shot-blockers of all time, as he ranks second in career blocks, with 184. Pitt head coach Jeff Capel described him as "one of the best players in our program's history."