New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Basketball

Speedy Claxton

(College basketball.  Born, Hempstead, NY, May 8, 1978.)  After dominating opponents at Christ the King H.S. in Middle Village, NY, Craig “Speedy” Claxton continued his career close to home by playing college basketball at Hofstra.  With the Flying Dutchmen, Claxton, only 5’11”, was a two-time America East Conference Player of the Year.  In his senior season, 1999-2000, he averaged 22.8 points per game and led Hofstra to its first NCAA Men’s Division I tournament berth in 23 years.  For his efforts that season, he won the Haggerty Award, given annually to the best Division I player in New York.  Claxton was drafted 20th overall by Philadelphia in the 2000 NBA draft and, after a trade to San Antonio, was a member of the Spurs’ 2002-03 NBA championship team.  He played for three other NBA, retiring after his last game for Atlanta in the 2008-09 season.  He finished his NBA career with a 9.3 ppg average.  Hofstra retired Claxton’s #10 jersey in 2009.  In 2013, Claxton returned to his alma mater to as a special assistant to the men’s basketball head coach. – By Matthew Kovitz

Buck Williams

Buck Williams (Pro basketball.  Born, Rocky Mount, NC, March 8, 1960.)  A solid 6’8”, 225-pound forward from Maryland, Charles Linwood (Buck) Williams was the New Jersey Nets’ first pick (third overall) in the 1981 N.B.A. draft.  During his eight years with the Nets, Williams scored 10,440 points (16.4 per game) and collected 7,576 rebounds, both team career records.  At the time of his trade to Portland (June 24, 1989, for center Sam Bowie), he was also the Nets career leader in games, minutes, shots attempted and made, free throws attempted and made, and personal fouls.  Following seven seasons with Portland, Williams was released and signed with the Knicks July 26, 1996.  After 115 games over two seasons with New York, Williams retired at age 38 leaving behind a legacy of not only 16,784 points in 1,307 regular-season games but also a reputation for class and character.

Sue Wicks

Sue Wicks (Basketball.  Born, Center Moriches, NY, Nov. 26, 1966.)  A Long Island high school star, Susan Joy Wicks turned Rutgers into an Eastern power in women’s basketball during a four-year career in which she scored 2,655 points in 126 games.  Wicks was a three-time all-America (1986-88) for the Lady Knights and was the Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year all three seasons.  Her career point total remains, through 2011 the highest for any player, male or female, at Rutgers.  Wicks was a professional basketball vagabond, playing in Italy, Japan, Hungary, Spain, Israel, and France starting in 1988 before the W.N.B.A. was established.  In 1997, she was the first draft choice of the Liberty and was the team’s top frontcourt reserve during most of her six seasons (1997-02) in New York.  Wicks averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in her W.N.B.A. career.  She announced her retirement Apr. 29, 2003, after playing for four W.N.B.A. Eastern Conference champions.  Wicks was the winner of the 1988 Naismith Award as the outstanding women’s college player, won the W.N.B.A. sportsmanship award in 2000, and was a league All-Star the same season.  A 6’2” center, she had her uniform number retired by Rutgers Apr. 26, 1998.  Wicks was the Liberty’s career leader in rebounds (788) and blocked shots (155) at her retirement.

Sherman White

Sherman White (College basketball.  Born, Philadelphia, PA, Dec. 16, 1928; died, Piscataway, N.J., Aug. 4, 2011.)  One of the most gifted of the young players in college basketball following World War II, Sherman White, who grew up in Englewood, N.J., began a promising career at Long Island U. in Brooklyn.  As a sophomore, he was second on the team in scoring with 281 points.  In 1949-50, his junior year, the 6’8” White scored 551 points in 25 games (22.0 per game) for the Blackbirds (20-5), the most ever for a player at a New York City college, and was a consensus all-American.  On Feb. 28, 1950, he scored 63 points against John Marshall College.  White was picked by The Sporting News as “Player of the Year” but in Feb. 1951, when leading the nation in scoring with over 27 points per game, he was implicated in the point-shaving scandals that tarnished a number of colleges.  The scandal led to his serving almost nine months in jail for conspiracy and ruined any chance for an N.B.A. career.  He played semi-pro ball in the Eastern League for several seasons with the Englewood Titans.  When Madison Sqaure Garden marked 50 years of major college basketball in 1984, White was recognized as a member of the all-collegian team and introduced as “the virtuoso of New York basketball.”

Nick Werkman

Nick Werkman (College Basketball.  Born, Trenton, NJ, July 17, 1942.)  A solid 6’3”, Nick (the Quick) Werkman exploded onto Seton Hall’s and college basketball’s scene as a sophomore in 1961-62 with a 33.0 average, the eighth-highest in collegiate records.  Werkman was especially welcome to Eastern fans since the sport was unwillingly wallowing in the revelations of a second major point-shaving scandal in a decade.  Reports had indicated that players from N.Y.U. and Columbia, among others, had accepted bribes to shave points.  Werkman didn’t lead the nation in scoring that year – he finished third.  He corrected this deficiency in 1962-63 even though his average slipped to 29.5 and his point total dropped from 793 in 24 games to 650 in 22.  Yet, he won the closest race in college annals as N.Y.U.’s Barry Kramer averaged 29.3.  The rematch the following year never materialized as Werkman raised his production to 830 points in 25 games (33.2) but was outscored by Howard Komives of Bowling Green, later a Knicks guard who was traded as part of the package that brought Dave DeBusschere to the Knicks.  Kramer was never a factor, sliding to 21.0.  Werkman’s senior season generated only a 13-12 record, leaving the Pirates 44-28 for his three-year career.  Werkman still holds Seton Hall records in most offensive categories, including career points (2,273, the 11th-highest total at the time in a three-year career).

Gary Waters

Gary Waters (College basketball.  Born, Detroit, MI, Aug. 15, 1951.)  Named 15th head coach of Rutgers basketball Apr. 6, 2001, Gary Steven Walters led the Scarlet Knights to the N.I.T. three times in his five seasons as head coach.  In his first season in Piscataway, the team went 18-13, and in his third (2003-04), the school reached its first N.I.T. final, when his 20-13 team lost to Michigan, 62-55.  It was Rutgers’ first 20-win season since 1982-83. Waters left after his fifth season and third N.I.T. berth (Rutgers lost in the first round) to become head coach at Cleveland State.  In those five seasons, Rutgers went 79-75, though only 28-52 in Big East Conference play.  – J.S.

Charlie Ward

Charlie Ward (Pro Basketball.  Born, Tallahassee, FL, Oct. 12, 1970.)  After leading Florida State’s football team to the national championship in Jan. 1994, Charlie Ward, Jr., won the Heisman, Maxwell, and Davey O’Brien trophies as the nation’s best football player, as well as the Sullivan Award as the outstanding amateur athlete in America.  He was also drafted as a baseball prospect by Milwaukee (1993) and the Yankees (1994) but signed with the Knicks as their No. 1 pick (26th overall) in the N.B.A. draft.  In 10 seasons with the Knicks, Ward was basically a backup guard, averaging 6.5 points in his 580 games with New York.  He was traded Jan. 5, 2004, to Phoenix in a deal that brought Stephon Marbury (q.v.) to the Knicks.  Ward played 14 games in 2004-05 for Houston before retiring.

Bobby Wanzer

Bobby Wanzer (College basketball.  Born, Brooklyn, NY, June 4, 1921.)  A New York high school basketball star, Robert Francis Wanzer became a standout guard at Seton Hall and later with Rochester in the N.B.A.  Wanzer starred for Bill Spiegel at Benjamin Franklin on teams that were unbeaten P.S.A.L. champions.  A World War II hitch in the Marines (1943-46) interrupted his Seton Hall career.  Wanzer played for the Pirates in 1946-47 when the team was coached by Bob Davies (q.v.), whom Wanzer joined in Rochester in 1947 when the Royals were still in the N.B.L.  When the Royals moved to Cincinnati, O., Wanzer went along as their coach, an assignment he began in 1955 while still playing.  Wanzer was fired 18 games into the 1958-59 season after a 3-15 start.  He was 98-136 as an N.B.A. coach.  Wanzer returned to Rochester as coach at St. John Fisher College, where he was 300-244 in 24 seasons (1963-87).

Keith Van Horn

Keith Van Horn (Pro Basketball.  Born, Fullerton, CA, October 23, 1975.)  Perhaps payback for the 1976 deal when the then-New York Nets sent their greatest player ever, Julius Erving, to the 76ers for cash, the Nets acquired potential All-Star forward Keith Van Horn from Philadelphia on June 27, 1997, in a transaction involving eight players.  Van Horn was the second overall pick in the N.B.A. draft that year and his first two seasons generally justified that ranking.  In 1997-98, he became the first rookie since 1978 (Bernard King) to lead the team in scoring (19.7) despite missing 17 games at the outset with a sprained right ankle.  The former Utah star was fifth in the league in scoring during the truncated 1999 season (21.6), although he missed the last eight games with a broken thumb.  In his third season, Van Horn moved to “small” forward despite his size (6’10”, 250 pounds) and he responded by averaging 19.2 points and playing 80 games.  In 2001-02, led the team in rebounding and averaged 14.8 points per game as the Nets reached their first N.B.A. final.  After the season, he was traded to Philadelphia and then acquired July 23, 2003, by the Knicks in a four-team deal.  Van Horn played 47 games for the Knicks (averaging 16.4 points per game) before he was dealt to Milwaukee Feb. 15, 2004, in a three-team trade.  He played his last N.B.A. game in 2006 for Dallas (which also reached the N.B.A. final), took a year off, and then was part of the Feb. 19, 2008, trade that sent Jason Kidd from the Nets to Dallas and brought Devin Harris to New Jersey.  Van Horn, however, never played for the Nets and retired after being waived by the team before the 2008-09 season began.

Jeff Van Gundy

Jeff Van Gundy (Pro Basketball.  Born, Hemet, CA, Jan. 19, 1962.)  When he succeeded Don Nelson and became the 18th coach of the Knicks history on Mar. 8, 1996, Jeff Van Gundy was just 34, the N.B.A.’s second-youngest bench boss. However, he had already served almost seven seasons as an assistant coach under Stu Jackson, John MacLeod, Pat Riley, and Nelson. Van Gundy was 13-10 for the balance of that season, and his first full campaign (1996-97) saw the Knicks finish 57-25. By 1999, his career had entered a “soap opera” phase as club president and general manager Ernie Grunfeld was fired, Van Gundy’s contract was in its final year, and the Knicks appeared destined to miss the playoffs. With injuries to star center Patrick Ewing and forward Larry Johnson, the Knicks somehow survived, the crowds chanted Van Gundy’s name, and the team surged all the way to the N.B.A. final before being outmanned in five games by San Antonio. Van Gundy then got a long-term contract. After two more playoff teams, he resigned suddenly Dec, 8, 2001, despite a 10-9 record, citing “diminished focus,” and finished with a 248-172 Knicks record (plus 37-32 in the playoffs), his teams never finishing under .500.  . The Knicks did not finish over .500 again until 2010-11.  In 2003 he became coach of the Houston Rockets and later a television analyst.  Van Gundy is an ardent tennis fan and as a young man rooted for the Oakland Raiders.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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