Inducted February 20, 1993
Mert Bancroft came to SMS from Buffalo, MO in 1965 and earned varsity letters for the Bears of four consecutive Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association basketball championship teams under Coach Bill Thomas from 1966 to 1969. The big center saw limited action as a freshman, but played increasing amounts as his career moved along, and was a key member of SMS teams which made four straight trips to the NCAA Division II tournament. The Bears lost in the regional finals to Abilene Christian when Bancroft was a freshman, but posted a 23-4 mark the following year and reached the Division II national finals before losing to Winston-Salem Bancroft’s sophomore season. SMS suffered another regional championship game loss, this time to Evansville, when he was a junior, but returned to the national championship game in 1969 when Bancroft was a senior, losing to Kentucky Wesleyan for the Division II title. Bancroft scored 20 points in the championship game and joined SMS teammate Curtis Perry on the all-tournament team at the NCAA finals. Bancroft was a Bears’ co-captain as a senior as he averaged 12.5 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game, led the 24-5 Bears in field goal accuracy, and was picked to the all-MIAA second team. He was the first winner of the Guy Thompson Award, presented annually since 1969 to the Bears’ top senior basketballer. He finished his career with 697 points and 533 rebounds over four varsity seasons. He played in 94 games, including 73 SMS victories. His total of winning games played is exceeded by only four men in SMS basketball history. Bancroft was drafted and signed by the Cincinnati Royals of the National Basketball Association at the conclusion of his SMS playing career.