Nick Pino, a standout for Kansas State’s men’s basketball team in the 1960s, was posthumously inducted into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Pino was selected for the state’s hall of fame in 2019, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed last year’s induction ceremonies.
He wasn’t able to enjoy the induction in-person, however. He died on Nov. 3, 2019, at 75.
Other members of the induction class were NFL veteran Alan Branch, professional boxer Danny Romero, former NBA player and college basketball coach Jimmy Collins, former college basketball coach Rob Evans, women’s basketball player Carolyn Thompson and professional boxer Holly Holm.
Known by the nickname “Nick the Stick” — given to him by a sports writer with the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, owing to Pino’s 7-foot-1 frame — Pino played three seasons (1965-68) for the Wildcats, all under the direction of legendary head coach Fred “Tex” Winter. During Pino’s time at K-State, the program won the Big Eight Conference regular-season title in 1968 and advanced to the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals as a senior. The Wildcats won 50 games in all during Pino’s playing career, posting three straight winning seasons and highlighted by a 19-win campaign in his final year.
Pino posted a double-figure scoring average during two of his three seasons; as a senior in 1967-68, he nearly averaged a double-double with 11.7 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. Those numbers bettered his efforts as a sophomore, when he led the team in both points (10.9) and rebounds (7.0) per game. A nearly unstoppable jump hook powered Pino’s offensive prowess.
He remains among the Wildcats’ top-25 all-time in total rebounds (561), while his 19 career double-doubles are 12th most in the school’s record book.
Pino was an All-American during his senior season at St. Michael’s High School in Santa Fe, N.M., in 1962-63. That year, he scored 80 points in a game against El Rito High School in January 1963. He also set the state’s single-game record for made free throws (26) against Espanola Valley that season. The 1,033 points he scored as a senior remained the single-season state record until Bryce Alford surpassed the mark in 2012-13.
The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Pino on two different occasions. He went in the sixth round of the 1968 draft, but injuries curtailed his NBA career. He later returned to professional basketball, playing in Mexico for Santos de San Luis. Pino won a Mexican national title with the club.
Pino, who graduated from K-State with a business degree, eventually went into insurance. He practiced insurance in Kansas before moving back to New Mexico in 1985.