(Editor’s note: This is the first in a seven-part weekly series in which the Times Herald will unveil its “Mount Rushmore” of St. Bonaventure men’s basketball — that is, the best four players — with the caveat of going decade by decade. Today: The 1950s.)
ST. BONAVENTURE — Perhaps the concept of categorizing St. Bonaventure basketball players has run its course.
After all, in the last two years alone, we’ve done everything from debating the all-time Mount Rushmore (the four most important players in Bona annals) to presenting my All-St. Bonaventure Basketball Teams since 1993-94. We’ve lent a helping hand in selecting the Bonnies’ 20-player All-Time Team, released last November, and asked who would crack your all-time starting lineup.
Does there even exist another way in which to distinguish and discuss the Bonnies’ best players from the last 70 years?
Well, there’s at least one: The Mount Rushmore idea … but, by decade.
And given that we remain mired in a sports standstill — and the strong possibility that we won’t see another live event in the area until at least August — we figured why not take the time to tackle this subject?
THE GUIDELINES we established were fairly straight-forward: We only considered players, in an effort to maximize the number of program greats that get a mention (so while coaches such as Larry Weise, Jim Satalin, Jim Baron and Mark Schmidt could certainly be considered among the four most significant figures from his era, they weren’t part of this particular exercise).
And we only took into account what they did while at Bona; nothing from the pros. If a player’s career overlapped decades, he was categorized into his graduation year (Bob Lanier, for instance, would be part of the 1970s; Tim Winn the 2000s).
Players were chosen based on three primary criteria: Statistics, individual accolades (such as an Atlantic 10 or All-American honor) and whether they played for one or more postseason teams.
We’ll start with the 1950s, as that’s essentially the earliest any of the 60 All-Time Team nominees began at Bona. This was perhaps the most difficult era from which to name the four most notable players, as it has the least amount of data available.
With that, here’s Part 1 of our Bona Mount Rushmore Series:
KEN FAIRFIELD (1956-59)
The case: Fairfield led Bona to an impressive 58-15 record and the National Invitation Tournament in all three of his varsity seasons, including a third-round consolation victory over St. John’s in 1958.
The 6-foot-3 guard, who served as a co-captain, reached the 1,000-point mark when it was extremely rare to do, finishing with 1,074 points, which still stands 41st on the program’s all-time list (and second among all players who finished their career before 1960).
Fairfield’s career highlight came when he scored a game-high 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting in that win over the Red Storm.
BILL KENVILLE (1950-53)
The case: Kenville, described as “an adept playmaker and prolific scorer” in his Bona biography, was a member of the Bonnies’ first two NIT teams (in 1951 and ‘52) and the team’s leading scorer at 19 points per game in 1953.
The Elmhurst native scored 908 points in three seasons, good for 56th in program history some 70 years later. Kenville, who’d go on to win an NBA championship with the Syracuse Nationals, was a United Press All-American Honorable Mention in 1951 and ‘52, an Associated Press All-American in 1952 and ‘53 and a Catholic College All-American Honorable Mention in ‘53.
KEN MURRAY (1947-50)
The case: One of the first Bona basketball players to have his jersey (No. 13) retired, Murray was also the program’s first 1,000-point scorer, and any time you’re the first in a category of that magnitude, you’re going to find your way onto a Mount Rushmore list.
Murray tallied 1,090 points in only 90 games, still good for 40th in Bona history, a place ahead of Fairfield.
The 6-foot-2 guard was an All-Little 3 selection in each of his three varsity seasons. He was named a Sporting News All-American and a First Team Catholic All-American as a senior in 1949-50.
BOB SASSONE (1950-53)
The case: Sassone, too, was a key contributor on the Bonnies’ first two NIT teams in 1951 and ‘52.
The Brooklyn native was Bona’s leading scorer in both campaigns, averaging 12.6 points (with a team-best free throw percentage of 73.6) in 1950-51 and 13.5 points in 1951-52. He was named to the All-NIT Team in 1952 and earned All-Sophomore All-American honors from the Sporting News in 1951 and All-American Honorable Mention accolades a year later.
Sassone, who would later serve as a Bona assistant coach for three decades, finished his career with 829 points, an average of 11.2 per game, which stands 56th in program history.
Honorable Mention: Mal Duffy (who sits 44th all-time in scoring with 1,029 points), Brendan McCann (the team’s leading scorer at 16.3 points in 1956 and an AP All-American Honorable Mention a year later) and Larry Weise, who tallied 862 points and led Bona to a fourth-place NIT finish in 1957).