He could have been the greatest Bonnie ever....

GregMitch

Member
Jan 25, 2020
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St. Bonaventure
Since we are without a game (again) for another week, perhaps this is the optimal time to post something I've wanted to write for awhile. It is, at least, something about which I am (for once) an expert. And it should provide a little context for why this guy finally made the Bona sports Hall of Fame this year despite subpar career stats.

When I was still in 9th grade in junior high back in Niagara Falls, I started hearing about a basketball prodigy one grade up at the high school, which then had about 2000 students as the city was booming. He was already starting on the varsity at a time when that was not common (all the schools had "jayvee" teams). He was said to be about 6'4" with incredible moves and already averaging over 20 points a game as a soph in one of the tougher leagues in the state--against teams from blue-collar cities rimming Buffalo such as Kenmore and Lackawanna. Two players from Lockport went on to strong college careers, including Mike Brown, who started alongside Calvin Murphy for three seasons.

His name was John Hayes.

I never cared about the high school teams but started sneaking into games there. Hayes was indeed a wonder: fast, with drives and moves around the basket not seen in these parts beyond NBA highlights on TV, plus hooks and medium-range jumpers, and with a bit of "showtime" in him (see photo in our old gym). Then he topped himself during his final two years, averaging about 29 points per game as a senior, a league record, and ending his career as the highest Western New York scorer ever in an AAA league and with the highest points per game that stood for decades, perhaps even to this day for any of the large schools up there.

HayesJohn1 (1).jpgI had grown up as a Niagara U fanatic but when, after being heavily recruited, he decided on SBU I was happy because I seemed to be ticketed there as well, for journalism (I am now in the school's journo Hall of Fame, but that's another story). In those days, freshmen still had to play on...freshmen teams, probably still a good idea. I was still a year behind him but word filtered north to the Falls that he had averaged 34.8 ppg and led the country's frosh in scoring (even topping some piker named "Alcindor" although against probably weaker opponents). So when I arrived at SBU in September of 1966, I was naturally looking forward to three years of Hayes (with George Carter and Billy Butler at the start, and finally a guy named Lanier).

Back in the day, perhaps even now, no team practices were allowed until Oct. 15 so it was customary to get a jump with the first such at 12:01 a.m. that day. I did not attend but the next day heard the scary news: Hayes had hurt his knee rather seriously on the floor of Butler Gym, as the new Fieldhouse was not quite ready. We sweated out the next six weeks, and when the season began he missed the first two games. Then it was on to game #3 on the road against a good Xavier team, on December 14. Yes, in those days, you never played a single game until early December.

Would Hayes even play? We celebrated in the dorm when he entered the game about 8 minutes in. All he did in about 25 minutes of action was score 26 points, despite a newly-bandaged knee. Surely an eventual all-American if the knee held up! And Bob Lanier coming to the varsity the following year!

That Saturday I attended the next game against another good club, Denver, at the Aud as Xmas break began. This time Hayes started--and naturally rang up 11 points in about 10 minutes of action. Then right in front of me he went down under the basket on a drive--and had to be helped off limping. That was the last we would see of him that year. After some kind of snafu, he was operated on by the Knicks' surgeon but this was long before arthroscopic surgery, and players--whose games were based on speed and agility--rarely came all the way back.

Hayes did not. The following year he played gamely with an enormous brace on his knee. He became more of an elite workhorse (passing, rebounding, short jumpers, tip-ins) and was a key player on the team that reached #3 in the national rankings and went on to the NCAA undefeated--averaging 13.5 points a game and shooting over 50% as one of the fabled "Iron Man Five." (Imagine playing 38 minutes a game on a bad knee.) Scored 19 in an NCAA win against tough Boston College in a game I attended in Rhode Island. Great numbers for nearly anyone but not for a budding all-time great. If you saw him fly and make players look silly as a high schooler...it was a bit sad to watch.

The following year, injured again, he sat out a lot and his play faltered. He took it like a man. We had become friendly by then (and still today, long-distance) and he sometimes let me hitch a ride back to The Falls when we visited our girlfriends. But then he was gone from campus, relegated to starring in local b-ball leagues. Today, he takes justified pride in being part of that 1967-1968 team but he will still say that his career might have been different if he had been red-shirted after his first knee injury--something rarely done back then. An NCAA title with Lanier, Butler and Hayes at full strength--and then Hayes and Lanier--seems quite plausible. I imagine his pain and disappointment still runs deep. Lanier has testified to the talent that was Hayes he confronted in pickup games before the injury.

In any case: there you have it. Based on seeing him play, and his numbers in high school, and then as a frosh--then better than a point-a-minute in his first two varsity games against good teams--I don't feel it is a stretch to say that, healthy, he would have joined Stith, Crawford, Lanier, and Nicholson as one of the five best Bonnies ever--and I'm convinced, possibly #1.
 

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Bill Russell

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Nov 16, 2019
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My Dad went to Bona with John Hayes, and he has told similar tales. Great Bona man.
 
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Citizen X

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With the latest scheduling problems, I happened to be thinking of another great Bona year that ended with our two stars, Tom Stith and Fred Crawford, diagnosed with TB. We've had some damnable medical issues over the years. I just hope we can keep our current team healthy and not get too exasperated when cautionary steps are needed. And yes, I remember "The Garbage Man." Even in that reduced role he was a great player.
 

Bona03

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Dec 29, 2019
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St. Bonaventure
Thanks, that was an enjoyable read. I was bored the other day and decided to check out our top 100 scoring list and also where are current players stand. I created an excel file listing them and I was going to update it as they play games. One thing that really stuck out to me was the fact that many of our top scorers only played 3 seasons and it made me wonder how many points they could have finished with had they played 4. Lanier is obvious, he averaged 27.6 in his career so he could have pushed 3000, same with Stith. I think they would have come up a little short. Of our top 20 scorers, 6 of them played only 3 seasons. They are so high because they averaged over 18 ppg. None of them had a 3 pt line either. I never saw Sanders play but I hear if there was a 3 pt line then he would have a ton more points.

I noticed some other interesting things when making it:
JR Bremer and Marques Green (2 of my favorites) each played 112 games and scored 1732 and 1734 respectively. Mark Jones also played 112 and had 1704 so that is a nice generational comp. I have had the pleasure of refereeing with Mark, he is a great guy and so much fun to talk basketball with.
If Jay Adams played as many games as his classmate Taqqee, he breaks 2000.
We have 22 guys in the 800-1000 range and many of them didnt play a lot of games. Our list of 1000 pt scorers would be much higher without the freshmen rule ( much like Lanier and Stith already mentioned)
Michael Lee had the quietest career. 18th on the list at1427 and had a very great career but won so few games and it was during a period many of us have blocked from memory.
The combo of Mobley and Posley scored 2300 pts. Granted we got both from their Jr-Sr years so they were the ultimate versions of themselves but still, thats a hell of a combo

As of now, Lofton and Welch have cracked the top 100 and Shoon is not far behind. Holmes will crack it sometime this year if he gets the games. If you are wondering, Lofton is #52 and rising fast. He has 961 (updated through Hofstra game) and could jump up to 46 in his next game (and pass Van Paassen, who has 978). Welch is at 97 with 587 and he is also rising fast. Shoon is 22 points from joining the list so that will happen very soon. Alfonza Jones and Sam Urzetta fall off with Welch and Shoon joining.

Hearing a story about a guy like Hayes, you really wonder where he could have ended up in this list.

Overall it was really fun and interesting to look over. I came across names I had never heard of and many I have heard the old timers talk about but never saw play. I'll attach it for anyone who is interested. Or not, xls is not supported as an attachment. I will see if I can copy it to a google doc and share that
 
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GregMitch

Member
Jan 25, 2020
41
39
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St. Bonaventure
Thanks, that was an enjoyable read. I was bored the other day and decided to check out our top 100 scoring list and also where are current players stand. I created an excel file listing them and I was going to update it as they play games. One thing that really stuck out to me was the fact that many of our top scorers only played 3 seasons and it made me wonder how many points they could have finished with had they played 4. Lanier is obvious, he averaged 27.6 in his career so he could have pushed 3000, same with Stith. I think they would have come up a little short. Of our top 20 scorers, 6 of them played only 3 seasons. They are so high because they averaged over 18 ppg. None of them had a 3 pt line either. I never saw Sanders play but I hear if there was a 3 pt line then he would have a ton more points.

I noticed some other interesting things when making it:
JR Bremer and Marques Green (2 of my favorites) each played 112 games and scored 1732 and 1734 respectively. Mark Jones also played 112 and had 1704 so that is a nice generational comp. I have had the pleasure of refereeing with Mark, he is a great guy and so much fun to talk basketball with.
If Jay Adams played as many games as his classmate Taqqee, he breaks 2000.
We have 22 guys in the 800-1000 range and many of them didnt play a lot of games. Our list of 1000 pt scorers would be much higher without the freshmen rule ( much like Lanier and Stith already mentioned)
Michael Lee had the quietest career. 18th on the list at1427 and had a very great career but won so few games and it was during a period many of us have blocked from memory.
The combo of Mobley and Posley scored 2300 pts. Granted we got both from their Jr-Sr years so they were the ultimate versions of themselves but still, thats a hell of a combo

As of now, Lofton and Welch have cracked the top 100 and Shoon is not far behind. Holmes will crack it sometime this year if he gets the games. If you are wondering, Lofton is #52 and rising fast. He has 961 (updated through Hofstra game) and could jump up to 46 in his next game (and pass Van Paassen, who has 978). Welch is at 97 with 587 and he is also rising fast. Shoon is 22 points from joining the list so that will happen very soon. Alfonza Jones and Sam Urzetta fall off with Welch and Shoon joining.

Hearing a story about a guy like Hayes, you really wonder where he could have ended up in this list.

Overall it was really fun and interesting to look over. I came across names I had never heard of and many I have heard the old timers talk about but never saw play. I'll attach it for anyone who is interested. Or not, xls is not supported as an attachment. I will see if I can copy it to a google doc and share that
Thanks for the lengthy reply. Hayes himself loves to point to the average team ppg for the 1967-1968 crew and always mentions no 3-pointers, no dunks allowed and, as much as anything, no clock limits so teams could and would go into freezes. Yet that team would still routinely score 80 or 90 points easily. Also, on three-year careers--it was great back then to watch the kids (which they were) getting their feet wet on frosh teams against other frosh with so much less pressure and always getting their 30 to 35 minutes in. (Which guys like Winston and Vazquez and Carpenter really needed.) And their home games were usually as openers to the big club's game so they had nice crowds arriving and students could watch 2 games in 3 1/2 hours if they wished. Lanier was on the first frosh team in the Reilly Center and needed a TON of work, both skills and weight. Today he would been forced to be varsity starter then, since our center that year was weak but we otherwise had good team.....Best frosh team were with the guys who graduated to the Final Four team, all stars--Gantt, Gary, Hoffman, Thomas....a joy to watch their blowouts.
 
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GregMitch

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Jan 25, 2020
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St. Bonaventure
I did not mention that John is also a fantastic singer--always was, as kid--and when we'd drive home from Bonas he would sing along with radio, a real favorite was "Happy Together" where he bested the Turtles....lately he has made a couple of self-made CDs and posted a bunch of songs on YouTube ('50s and '60s songs mainly)....he just reposted this one which he calls CarPort Karaoke...this actually him singing to a backing track, no lip syncing or some such....missed his true calling?

 

res

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Dec 29, 2019
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Citizen X

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Dec 29, 2019
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St. Bonaventure
I did not mention that John is also a fantastic singer--always was, as kid--and when we'd drive home from Bonas he would sing along with radio, a real favorite was "Happy Together" where he bested the Turtles....lately he has made a couple of self-made CDs and posted a bunch of songs on YouTube ('50s and '60s songs mainly)....he just reposted this one which he calls CarPort Karaoke...this actually him singing to a backing track, no lip syncing or some such....missed his true calling?

He is really good! Ask him to produce another Drifters classic: "Under the Boardwalk."