Philly legend Rodgers entering hoops Hall

Posted: August 08, 2014

GUY RODGERS did not play basketball at Temple as a freshman. Instead, remembered Big 5 historian Jack Scheuer, the longtime Associated Press writer, Rodgers played in five rec leagues around the city. The backcourt on one of those teams was Rodgers and Scheuer. One night, they combined for 57 points - 52 for Rodgers, five for Scheuer.

If Rodgers had a fan club, Scheuer would have been its president. He first saw Rodgers at Northeast High, followed him through Temple and a wonderful NBA career, mostly with the Warriors and eventually with the Bulls, Bucks and Cincinnati Royals.

"He could play in today's game without any problem," Scheuer said. "His vision was so great and his speed and his ability to pass the ball. There were stories of him in high school practicing one against five sometimes and scoring. He was way ahead of his time."

Rodgers was a one-man fastbreak. In an era when most teams walked the ball up the court, Temple ran. Well, Rodgers ran and the others had to run to keep up.

It took far longer than it should have, but the first great player of the Big 5 era finally will take his rightful place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame at a ceremony tonight in Springfield, Mass.

Only two players have won the Geasey Award as the Big 5's best player three times, without any ties. That would be Rodgers, who won the first three awards from 1956 to 1958 and La Salle's 3,000-point scorer, Lionel Simmons. Kenny Durrett (La Salle) and John Pinone (Villanova) also won three. Durrett shared one, Pinone two.

Rodgers was the quintessential Philadelphia point guard. He was the model for everyone who ran a team in this city.

"Guy was very strong," Scheuer said. "He was 6-1, 190. If he was a fighter, he'd be a heavyweight, even though he was extremely quick."

Rodgers averaged 19.6 points in his three seasons at Temple, scoring 1,767 points. His teams were 74-16. His first team was 27-4 and played in the Final Four. His last team was 27-3 and also played in the Final Four. He was a first-team All America in 1958. Joining him on that team were Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Elgin Baylor.

The only two city players in the Hall are Paul Arizin (Villanova) and Tom Gola (La Salle). Gola's last season was the season before the Big 5 began. If the Big 5 was finally going to get a player in the Hall, Rodgers, who passed away in 2001, was the right player.

And he did not stop being a great player when he became a territorial pick of the old Philadelphia Warriors. He scored 10,415 points and had 6,917 assists in 892 NBA games. He led the league with 825 assists in 1962-63 and 908 in 1966-67. He was a four-time All Star.

"[Bob] Cousy was the big man at the time, but there are still a lot of people that think Guy was at least the equal of Cousy," Scheuer said.

Like so many in the city, Scheuer has been wondering why Rodgers wasn't voted in the Hall years ago.

"I'd just about given up," Scheuer said. "That he is finally getting in is just tremendous. It's just a shame that he's not alive to see it."

comments powered by Disqus