Wes Bialosuknia. R.I. P.

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Wes Bialosuknia. R.I. P.

Postby rlee » Sun Nov 03, 2013 5:09 pm

http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/arti ... uknia-dies

Wes Bialosuknia, who starred for the Franklin D. Roosevelt High School basketball team before setting records for the UConn men's basketball program and playing in the ABA, has died at the age of 68, according to the UConn athletic department.

Bialosuknia, who was born in Poughkeepsie on June 8, 1945 and nicknamed the “Poughkeepsie Popper,” was a multi-sport athlete for the Presidents before matriculating in Stoors, Conn., in 1964.

In addition to a three-year UConn career that ended with a 56-18 record and a 23.6 point-per-game average – the school's all-time best – the 6-foot-2, 185-pound guard became UConn's first Academic All-American in 1967. Bialosuknia averaged 28.0 points his senior season, which stands as a program record.

Despite being drafted 37th overall in the 1967 NBA draft by the St. Louis Hawks, Bialosuknia joined the Oakland Oaks of the ABA, which was in its inaugural season. He played one season, averaging 8.7 points in 70 games.

The Oaks themselves only lasted two seasons, as the franchise became the Washington Capitals in 1969, and the Virginia Squires the following season.

By JEFF OTTERBEIN, jotterbein@courant.com, The Hartford Courant

Wes Bialosuknia, who played at UConn in the mid-1960s and holds the single-season scoring record for points per game, has died.

Bialosuknia, 68, was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., which led to his nickname, the "Poughkeepsie Popper."

At 6 feet 2, 185 pounds, he was known for his jump shot, playing before the days of the three-pointer.

"Folks who saw Wes in those days saw one of the great jump shooters," said Fred Shabel, who coached Bialosuknia at UConn. "He was just a dominant offensive player. Had we had the three-point line, he would have been even better. ... So many of his points were from the outside, from behind the three-point line. We always said he had the green light. We could come down on a fastbreak and were not upset if he threw the ball up. He had the green light."

Bialosuknia was highly recruited out of high school. Shabel remembers it coming down to Syracuse and UConn.

"He fell in love with the school," said Shabel, 81, vice chairman of Comcast Spectacor in Philadelphia, where he has worked for 33 years. "We formed a bond and the campus community fit his personality."

Bialosuknia averaged an all-time best 23.6 points over his three seasons. He averaged 28.0 in the 1966-67 season, the UConn record. He averaged 21.3 in '64-65, 21.25 in '65-66.

He reached 1,000 points in his career quicker than anyone in UConn history, 47 games. He had 30 or more points nine times in the 1966-67 season and that record stood until broken by Kemba Walker, who had 11 in the 2010-11 season. No one had more 30-point games in his UConn career than Bialosuknia (17).

The Huskies were 56-18 in Bialosuknia's three seasons. UConn was 23-3 in 1964-65, 16-8 in 1965-66, and 17-7 in the 1966-67 season. The Huskies won three Yankee Conference titles and made the NCAA Tournament twice.

Bialosuknia played on teams that included Tom Penders, whose college basketball coaching stops included Rhode Island, Texas and Houston; Bill Holowaty, who carved out a legendary career as the Eastern Connecticut baseball coach; and Toby Kimball, who played nine seasons in the NBA, including one with the team that drafted him, the Boston Celtics.

Shabel remembers the time UConn was playing at Southern Methodist in 1965 and Bialosuknia went out to center court with the captains to meet the officials. Apparently an SMU captain's mother had had an operation.

"He comes back and says, "I think we're in trouble tonight. The official asked the kid how his mother's doing.'" Shabel said.

UConn did lose the game, 80-68, but that did not happen much when Bialosuknia and Shabel were together.

Bialosuknia was a fourth-round draft pick of the St. Louis Hawks in the 1967 NBA draft but elected to play for the Oakland Oaks in the ABA. He ranked second (1967-68) in three-point field goal shooting percentage and his nine consecutive three-point field goals made ties him for the most in ABA history. He averaged 8.7 points in his one season, '67-68.

Bialosuknia was a member of the UConn All-Century Team selected in 2001 and is in the Huskies of Honor recognition program. He scored 1,673 points in his three seasons and was a three-time All-New England choice by the Associated Press and United Press International, and a three-time All-Yankee Conference pick.

By Mike Benischek
http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/arti ... 310270031/

Greg Kohls remembers those nights in the early 1960s, when his parents would bring him to Franklin D. Roosevelt High School to watch his hero take the court.

To young basketball players in Hyde Park, Kohls said, Wes Bialosuknia was like Mickey Mantle.

“He was everyone’s inspiration,” Kohls said. “We all waited for him to come to the court. We saw the success he had, going on to star at the University of Connecticut. It gave us hope that he could be us.”

On Wednesday, the man who was nicknamed the “Poughkeepsie Popper” passed away. Bialosuknia died at the age of 68 at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., with family at his side, according to an obituary released by UConn on Friday. He leaves behind his wife of 39 years, Maureen, their two children, Jane and John, and two grandchildren.

Bialosuknia, who set numerous records at UConn and played one season in the American Basketball Association, began his basketball career at Roosevelt and on the courts at Fairview Park.

“He probably invented Fairview Park,” said Rich Rinaldi, who, along with Kohls, starred at Roosevelt in the mid-’60s. “That’s a reach. But that’s where you would find Wes.

“I basically had three heroes,” Rinaldi added, noting former Los Angeles Dodgers Sandy Koufax and Tommy Davis. “I don’t use that term often. Wes was kind of like a hero.”

Bialosuknia, born June 8, 1945, played three varsity sports at Roosevelt, including basketball for coach Gerry Marquardt, before graduating in 1963, having earned a full scholarship to play basketball at UConn.

“He was the fastest guy making a cut on the court that I ever saw,” said John Flanagan, who covered Bialosuknia’s games at Roosevelt and UConn for the Poughkeepsie Journal. “I don’t care who was guarding him, how big or how fast they were — one or two fakes and Wes was gone.”

In addition to a three-year collegiate career that ended with a 56-18 record and a 23.6 points-per-game average — the school’s all-time best — the 6-foot-2, 185-pound guard became UConn’s first Academic All-American in 1967. Bialosuknia averaged 28.0 points his senior season, which stands as a program record, and broke 21 of the school’s records in all during his time in Storrs, Conn.

“He was a good guy,” said Hank Bialosuknia, Wes’ cousin and a Salt Point resident. “Not only was he a good athlete, he did extremely well in school.”

Despite being drafted 37th overall in the 1967 NBA draft by the St. Louis Hawks, Bialosuknia joined the Oakland Oaks of the ABA, which was in its inaugural season. According to Journal archives, commitments to the National Guard eliminated the chance of playing in Europe, and Bialosuknia said he turned away from the Hawks because he wasn’t fond of the management.

As part of his contract, which was for $55,000 over three years, Bialosuknia received a yellow Jaguar XKE convertible. He played one season, averaging 8.7 points in 70 games.

“Off the court, I didn’t know him that well,” said Rinaldi, who now lives in Pennsylvania. “I can remember one time on a Saturday he drove me down to the city. … Somehow, I’m in the car with him, and he had a yellow Jaguar. That would be something that I’ll always remember.

“This is a guy that, he was it. He was bigger than life.”

Bialosuknia settled in Bristol, Conn., after his season with the Oaks and became a reporter for the Hartford Times. He developed a love for camping, hiking and other outdoor activities, according to his obituary. He also became a coach for several youth leagues in the area.

Bialosuknia was a member of UConn Basketball’s All-Century Team, as picked in 2001, and he, Rinaldi and Kohls were all inducted into the Roosevelt Hall of Fame on the same night around a decade ago.

“It was really neat to have that,” said Kohls, who now resides in Florida. “He was a big influence to any kid who played basketball at Roosevelt High School in the 1960s.

“When I got that call (Friday) morning about Wes dying, it was like a part of me died.”
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