LORETTO - St. Francis once competed with and even exceled against the highest level of competition in college basketball, and the school plans to honor some of the stars from those glory years with a new Golden Era Hall of Fame.
"We have many, many players who were drafted by the NBA who I'm certain most people don't remember but certainly are deserving of recognition," said Altoona native Bob Moore, a St. Francis alum and former sports information director who has helped spearhead the project.
From the Maurice Stokes era in the 1950s through the 1970s, Moore said St. Francis could "compete with anybody - and did." The school has an athletics hall of fame to honor its biggest stars such as Stokes, and the Golden Era Hall of Fame will bring recognition to other key members of those teams.
"Those years have been forgotten to some extent," said Moore, who hopes the new hall of fame will "remind people that there was a time at one point when St. Francis was as good as any other basketball team out there."
The inaugural hall of fame class will include five players, who will be enshrined at a ceremony on campus June 23. The players are:
n Joe Aston: A guard/forward from 1957-60, he was regarded by legendary St. Francis coach Skip Hughes as "the best player I ever coached after Maurice Stokes." He scored in double figures for three years and ranks fifth in school history with a rebound average of 11.7 per game.
n Jim McClellan: A teammate of Stokes' at Westinghouse High in Pittsburgh, he joined his friend at St. Francis and was a key member of two NIT teams. He finished with 1,140 points and was drafted by the NBA's Cincinnati Royals.
n Sandy Williams: He came to St. Francis in 1961 and enjoyed a superb career, becoming one of only three players in program history to finish with more than 1,500 points and 750 rebounds.
n Larry Lewis: He was second in the nation in rebounding in 1969, averaging a whopping 20.6 boards per game. He finished his career with 1,324 rebounds (second all-time to Stokes) and a career average of 17.6. He set a school record that still stands with 46 points in a game against St. Vincent in 1969 and was drafted by both the NBA and ABA.
n Frank Puschauver: He came to St. Francis in 1953 and played on two teams with Stokes that went to the NIT. He ranks 11th on the school's career scoring list with 1,371 points.
"It is truly important that the golden era of basketball be celebrated and remembered at St. Francis University," school president Father Gabriel Zeis said. "There is no more appropriate way than to honor those whose dedication and talent made this era what it will eternally be - the very best."
Moore, a longtime member of the Kansas City Chiefs' public relations staff, said over the next few years the Golden Era Hall of Fame Hall will "fill in the blanks with people who have been overlooked."
"We wanted to make sure that those players who played on those teams are remembered," Moore said.