When basketball fans in Montana discuss the best players in state history, Wayne Estes’ name is always at the top of the discussion.
Estes was one of the best players in all of college basketball while playing at Utah State in the 1960s, but he got his start in Anaconda. He was a two-time all-state player for the Copperheads, leading them to the Class AA state tournament as a junior and senior.
Once at Utah State, though, Estes reached another level, including all-America honors in 1965. He owns the Aggies’ records for rebounds in a single game (28 against Regis) and points in a single game (52 against Boston College) and season (821 during the 1963-64 season). He averaged 33.7 points per game as a senior in 1964-65, second only to Rick Barry of Miami, and 26.7 for his career. Both marks top the Utah State record books. Estes ranks third on Utah State’s all-time scoring list and fourth on the program’s all-time rebounding list, averaging 11.9 boards per game. He led the Aggies in scoring as a sophomore, junior and senior, and also led the team in rebounding his junior and senior seasons.
He became the 18th player in college basketball history to score more than 2,000 points, scoring his 2,001st career point as part of a 48-point performance against Denver just hours before his death on Feb. 8, 1965. Estes was electrocuted when he walked into a down power line. He was 21.
Estes, who many consider one of the best shooters ever to play the game, would have undoubtedly been a high selection in the 1965 NBA draft. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Lakers, who used a territorial pick on future NBA all-star Gail Goodrich, favored Estes.