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Hackensack Police: Former Englewood Basketball Star Fights With Officers

William "Bill" Willoughby
William "Bill" Willoughby Photo Credit: COURTESY: Bergen County Sheriff

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- A former Englewood star who became one of the first three American basketball players to skip college -- changing the course of professional basketball -- was arrested after Hackensack police said he fought with them on a city street.

Bill "Poodle" Willoughby, 58, tried to run from officers who responded to a suspicious person call Wednesday night on Clinton Place, Capt. James Prise told Daily Voice.

"Officers had gotten a previous call with the same description at the same spot," Prise said. "When police first arrived, he'd left."

This time officers grabbed Willoughby as he tried to flee, and he "came out of his jacket," the captain said.

The 6-foot-8-inch, 240-pound Willoughby "continued to struggle as backups arrived," Prise said. "At that point an officer threatened to use his Taser and they were able to get him into cuffs."

Willoughby, who lives in Hackensack, was processed at the Bergen County Jail, posted $10,000 bail and was released pending grand jury action on charges of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and marijuana possession.

The NBA's Atlanta Hawks selected Willoughby in the second round of the 1975 NBA draft -- joining Darryl Dawkins and Moses Malone as the only players to turn professional straight out of high school -- after he was graduated from Dwight Morrow High School.

He ended up playing eight seasons for six teams -- and had a signature moment when he used a 47-inch vertical leap to block the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's trademark "sky hook" while playing for the Houston Rockets against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1981 NBA playoffs.

Willoughby was 26 when he retired in 1984, ending his career with the then-New Jersey Nets. Agents later mismanaged his money, leaving him with just his NBA pension.

Willoughby got a bachelors degree in communications from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 2001, when he was 44.

The NBA paid all of his FDU expenses in exchange for Willoughby becoming a special league counselor to pro-caliber players wanting to skip college.

Ten years ago, the league began requiring that high school players wait a year before becoming eligible for the draft.

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