This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on Jan 2, 2000. We have listed only the sports figures who were involved in basketball. Nineteen of the top 100 sports figures of the 20th Century named in this story were in the sport of basketball. Four were coaches, one was a journalist, and fourteen were players, 3 females and 11 males. They are listed in alphabetical order. The complete article was found on the internet at http://www.post-gazette.com/sports_headlines/20000102top9.asp
Western Pennsylvania's Top
100 sports figures of the 20th Century
Sunday, January 02, 2000
As selected by the Post-Gazette sports staff
Al Abrams, journalist and promoter : As sports editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he founded The Dapper Dan Club in 1936. Through the years Dapper Dan promoted various athletic events and raised thousands of dollars as the charitable arm of the newspaper
Swintayla Cash, basketball : All-America at McKeesport High, where she averaged 30 points and nearly 17 rebounds a game. Also lettered in track. Started 14 of 22 games for perennial power University of Connecticut in her freshman year, 1998-99.
Sam Clancy, basketball and football : Excelled on the court at Fifth Avenue High and its successor, Brashear. Then went on to a great basketball career at the University of Pittsburgh. His Fifth Avenue team won the 1976 PIAA Class AA championship. The 6-foot-6 forward was the nation's leading rebounder during his four seasons at Pittsburgh, 1977-81. Played professional football for 11 seasons with three teams in the USFL and NFL.
Chuck Cooper, basketball : The first African American to be drafted into the National Basketball Association, selected by Boston in 1950. At Duquesne University, he was an All-America, played on two NIT teams and was the Dukes' captain his senior year. At Pittsburgh's Westinghouse High, he twice won all-city basketball honors.
Kenny Durrett, basketball : Played during the golden era of high school basketball in Western Pennsylvania, leading Schenley to three consecutive City League crowns from 1965-67 as well as the PIAA Class A championship in 1966. Went on to LaSalle, where he led the Explorers in scoring for three consecutive years. His professional career was cut short by a knee injury.
Don Graham, basketball : Graham was the North Catholic boys' basketball coach for 51 years. He retired last year with the most wins in state history, having compiled an 801-436. He won 10 WPIAL section titles and a state Catholic school championship
Sihugo Green, basketball : A consensus All-America in 1955 and 1956, the 6-foot-2 guard averaged 19.8 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game in his three-year career at Duquesne University. Green led the 1955 Dukes team to the NIT title, the only national championship Duquesne has won. He played for nine years in the NBA, finishing as a reserve on the 1966 Boston Celtics championship team.
Dick Groat, baseball/basketball : One of the finest athletes of his time, Groat played shortstop for the Pirates for nine years (1952, 1955-62), sparking the team to a world championship in 1960 when he led the National League in hitting with a .325 average and was named league MVP. Groat posted a .286 average over his 14-year major league career, batting .300 or better four times. Groat, a graduate of Swissvale High School, came to the Pirates after being named All-America in baseball and basketball at Duke University. Groat, a 6-foot guard, led the nation in scoring his senior season, averaging 26 a game. After his rookie season with the Pirates, Groat played basketball for the Ft. Wayne Pistons, scoring nearly 12 points a game. His NBA career lasted only one season, however, because Pirates general manager Branch Rickey made him quit. Groat has been the color commentator on Pitt basketball radio broadcasts for 21 seasons.
Connie Hawkins, basketball : His career holds as much mystique as that of any other NBA Hall of Famer. Was not able to play in the NBA until he was 27 because of a 1960 gambling and point-shaving scandal in which he was linked but charged. As a result, the New York City playground legend became a basketball nomad. He toured the world with the Harlem Globetrotters and played for the Pittsburgh Rens and the Pittsburgh Pipers in fledgling leagues. At 19 with the Rens, he was the MVP of the new American Basketball league in 1961-62. In 1967-68 The Hawk led the Pittsburgh Pipers to the American Basketball Association championship. But, it took a lawsuit before he was able to join the NBA in 1969-70 with the Phoenix Suns. His election to the Hall of Fame was due in large to his showmanship. He was the first player to demonstrate the style and flash that were trademarks of later players such as Julius Erving and Michael Jordan.
Korie Hlede, basketball : A virtual unknown when she arrived on the Duquesne University campus from her native Croatia as a freshman in 1994, the 5-foot-9 guard became the most decorated female athlete in school history. A four-time all-conference player, she was named Atlantic 10 rookie of the year in 1985, player of the year in 1998 and was recognized on various All-America teams. Finished her college career with 2,631 points and was the first woman, or man, to score 2,000 points at Duquesne. Drafted by Detroit of the WNBA, she finished second in the 1998 rookie of the year voting.
Don Hennon, basketball : Legendary player at Wampum High and University of Pittsburgh. He set a WPIAL four-year scoring record of 2,376 points at Wampum (1951-55) that endured until 1993. He was an All-America at Pittsburgh in 1958-59 and is still the Panthers' all-time leading scorer with 1,814 points. He passed up the NBA for a career as a surgeon.@
Billy Knight, basketball : After a prep career at Braddock, he went on to the University of Pittsburgh where he scored 1,731 career points, second only to Don Hennon. Led the 1974 Panthers to the NCAA Eastern Regional Finals, the farthest any Pittsburgh team has gone in the tournament. Known as Mooney to friends and teammates, Knight played 11 seasons in the ABA and NBA, mostly with the Indiana Pacers.
Maurice Lucas, basketball : The 6-foot-9, 215-pound Pittsburgh native earned a reputation as on of the NBA original enforcers during an eight-team, 14-year professional career which ended in 1988. His crowning professional achievement was serving as Bill Walton's inside muscle on the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers championship team. Grew up in the Hill District and played on the 1971 Schenley High team, considered one of the best prep teams in Pennsylvania history. An outstanding player at Marquette, he left college after his junior year in 1974 to join St. Louis of the ABA.
Ed McCluskey, basketball : Considered by many the greatest high school coach ever in the state. Had a record of 574-153 at Farrell from 1949-77, winning seven state titles and 11 WPIAL championships. Career record was 698-185.
Norm Nixon, basketball : A 6-foot-2 guard, Nixon played for four years at Duquesne University and was team captain his junior and senior seasons. He led the Dukes to their last NCAA tournament appearance his senior year. He is fourth on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,805 points and averaged 17.4 points per game. Nixon went on to have a stellar career in the NBA. He played for 10 years with the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, scoring 15.7 points per game (12,065 career points) and playing in three All-Star games. He played on two Lakers championship teams in 1980 and 1982.
Charles "Buzz" Ridl, basketball : Posted an impressive .704 winning percentage in 12 seasons as coach at Westminster College. His 1962 Titans were voted No. 1 small-college team in the nation. Also athletic director at Westminster. Coached the University of Pittsburgh for seven years. His 1974 Panthers, lead by Billy Knight, finished 25-4 and lost in the NCAA Eastern Regional Final. His career record was 313-174, including 97-83 at Pittsburgh despite a 4-20 record his first season.
Suzie McConnell Serio, basketball : There is evidence that McConnell Serio may be the prototype point guard. In her four year-career at Penn State, she had 1,307 assists. That's the most assists ever by a college basketball player, woman or man. McConnell Serio was an All-American at Penn State and averaged 15 points a game in addition to dishing out all those chances to others. After her senior year in 1988, she joined the U.S. Olympic team. McConnell Serio directed the office and scored 8.4 points a game as the Americans won the gold medal. Four years later, the Seton-LaSalle graduate was an Olympic point guard again as the United States took the bronze in Barcelona. After having four children and starting a successful run as basketball coach at Oakland Catholic High School, she decided to get in shape and play in the WNBA in 1998. The 32-year-old rookie won newcomer of the year honors as she led the Cleveland Rockers to the playoffs. McConnell Serio plans to return to the Rockers next season after foot surgery for a stress fracture.
Maurice Stokes, basketball : Gained fame as a phenomenal high school player at Pittsburgh's Westinghouse, graduating in 1951. Achieved college stardom at St. Francis, Pa., where he's still the second leading scorer with 2,282 points. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Stokes played three years in the NBA and was rookie of the year in 1956 with the Rochester Royals. His career was cut short by a head injury suffered during the final game of the 1958 season. The injury resulted in a form of sleeping sickness that left him paralyzed until his death at age 36 in 1970.
Jack Twyman, basketball : After failing three times to make his high school team at Pittsburgh's Central Catholic in the late 1940s, he went on to become a star at the University of Cincinnati and averaged 19 points a game in an 11-year NBA career with the Rochester/Cincinnati Royals. Joined the Royals in 1956. Although not great friends, he became the legal guardian of teammate Maurice Stokes after Stokes suffered a head injury in 1958 and was left paralyzed the final 12 years of his life.
Note: It's ironic that the names of Stokes and Twyman would be listed next to each other since as noted above Twyman became the guardian of Stokes during his illness. Jack Twyman delivered an inspiring commencement address at St. Francis College concerning the life of Stokes at the graduation of the class of 1971 in an outdoor ceremony on the campus in the mountains between Johnstown and Altoona.