By Joel Alderman
A former Yale basketball player, Tony Lavelli, and the Bulldogs’ coach of the present, James Jones, will be inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in Worcester, Mass., on August 8th.
Lavelli, who died January 8, 1998, was arguably Yale’s greatest and purest shooter. He scored 1,964 points without benefit of present day rules awarding three point shots and bonus free throws.
Jones, the Ivy League’s reigning Coach of the Year, is Yale’s all-time winingest coach with 231 victories and a .571 winning percentage in league games. His 128 Ivy decisions are the fourth highest in conference history.
Duren going pro
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that recently graduated Javier Duren has signed to play pro ball in Holland with the Aris Leeuwarden team in the Eredivisie League. Duren had a big role in Yale’s barely unsuccessful attempt to get into the NCAA tournament, losing the qualifying game to co-Ivy champion Harvard. Being denied the opportunity to go to the Big Dance would have enabled Duren to match Lavelli, who in 1949 led his team to Madison Square Garden where he scored 26 points in a four point loss to Illinois.
Yale’s prolific scorer
Having seen most of Lavelli’s home games, he is this writer’s nomination for the best offensive player ever to put on a Yale uniform, even including the great Johnny Lee. At one point he was the all-time highest scorer in major college history, breaking the record of the legendary George Mikan. He was the National Player of the Year in 1949, a three-time All-America selection and a first round draft choice of the Boston Celtics. He performed a few years in the NBA before turning to his first love as an entertainer playing the accordion.
An inspirational leader
Separated on the court from Lavelli by 66 years, Duran failed to match Totalin’ Tony (as he was called) in getting to the NCAA spotlight. Now he is about to head for Europe to extend his basketball career.
Javier was a first team All-Ivy selection last season, averaging 14.00 points per game, He was fourth in the league in assists (3.9 per game), seventh in steals (1.3 per game) and ninth in assist/turnover ratio (1.4).
His contributions went beyond his playing ability. He was also an inspirational leader, with a superlative attitude and ability to put things into perspective. After his team lost the finale in heartbreaking fashion, he told an interviewer that if that defeat was the worst thing to happen to him that day, then it was a pretty good day.