James E. Staggs, 64, prep basketball star

James E. Staggs
James E. Staggs
Posted: January 12, 2013

James Ervin "Erv" Staggs, 64, a Philadelphia high school basketball star who led Thomas Edison High School to a city championship in 1966 and later played professionally, died Saturday, Dec. 29, of cancer at his home in Northeast Philadelphia.

Mr. Staggs, a 6-foot-6 guard-forward also known as "Stu," scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Inventors to victory in the 1966 city championship game with a 56-52 victory over St. Thomas More at Lincoln High School.

That win, capping a 12-2 season, brought the City Title to a North Philadelphia team for the first time since Simon Gratz High won it in 1939.

Mr. Staggs, a high school All-American, won the Inquirer Award as the game's most valuable player.

"He's one of those guys that when we talk about Philadelphia basketball, we don't hear his name," said broadcaster and Philadelphia basketball maven Sonny Hill. "But to me he was an outstanding player."

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Staggs played professionally in the American Basketball Association.

He later worked as a drug and alcohol counselor and was ordained a minister in 2009.

Mr. Staggs was born Sept. 1, 1948, in Philadelphia, the youngest of six children of Hettie Burgess-Staggs and Edward Staggs. He was raised in North Philadelphia in the area of Broad and Somerset Streets.

A talented athlete at an early age, Mr. Staggs was known as a big player with excellent ballhandling skills.

"Erv was one of the early tall guards. Back in the day, guards were 6-2, 6-3. Erv was about 6-5," Hill said. "That, to me, was always one of the distinctions about his playing career."

Mr. Staggs played college ball at North Carolina A&T and Cheyney Universities. He played professionally for two years. In 1969, the ABA's Miami Floridians drafted him. He was with them for one year and went on to play for the New Orleans Buccaneers and San Diego Conquistadors.

"He was one of those people who always did everything to the best of their abilities," his daughter, Tanisha Staggs, said.

Mr. Staggs met Sharlene Grisby in 1972 at a Baker League basketball game at Temple's McGonigle Hall, his daughter said.

"She was in a 'hot pants' contest and he was a player. And she won. And I guess that's all she wrote," his daughter said. The couple married in 1975.

An earlier marriage to Renee Staggs ended in divorce.

After his basketball career, Mr. Staggs worked as a counselor at drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers and other care facilities in and around Philadelphia, including Eagleville Hospital, Diagnostic and Rehabilitation Center of Philadelphia, and Elwyn Institute.

At Eagleville, Mr. Staggs coordinated all the recreational activities. He retired in 2010.

Always a spiritual person, Mr. Staggs and his wife started a church, God's House Worship, in their home in 2008. He was ordained a minister in 2009. They operated the church until early 2012, his daughter said.

She said Mr. Staggs liked to watch nature shows, old movies, and political shows on television.

"His motto was, you have to do what's right even when no one's watching," she said.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Staggs is survived by sons Ervin Jr. and Sharif, four grandchildren, a sister, and two brothers.

A viewing will be Friday, Jan. 11, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Ray of Hope Outreach for Christ Ministries, 5824 N. Broad St. A funeral will begin at 11. Burial will be in Mount Moriah Cemetery.

Contact Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.

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