Greatest Basketball Player

I recently attended an engagement where the speaker spoke on Ellwood City Area Athletics. Most of the presentation centered on baseball and football but the topic of basketball stirred up some conversation. It was suggested that Joedy Gardner was the most valuable basketball player in Ellwood City history. The speaker conceited that he may not have been the greatest in Ellwood’s history, though he was great, but the most valuable. He credited Gardner with changing the way the other schools around the area viewed Ellwood City Basketball.
A number of people have shared with us how good Joedy was, so if he wasn’t the greatest in Ellwood City history, who was? I guess that comes down to how old the person you are asking is.
Ellwoodians that are around the century mark remember players like Dip McDaniel, Merit Book, and Sing MacDonald as phenomenal players. Dip has been credited with getting people in Ellwood interested in basketball during his games at the Shelby clubhouse as these men played before Ellwood City even had a high school team. As a matter of fact, for the first fifty years of Ellwood’s existence, Dip was widely regarded as the greatest athlete to come out of our tube making town.
Then that was about the time Joedy Gardner hit the scene. As mentioned above Joedy turned the tide for Ellwood from consecutive losing seasons to an actual contender. He starred at Lincoln from 1951 to 54 before playing on nationally ranked teams at West Virginia University.
Dan Aloi is probably the other great basketball player to be mentioned in this conversation. Having ended his career in Ellwood with a number of records including single game scoring record, single season scoring record, and the career scoring record. He was also named to the National High School Boys Basketball All-American team in 1987.
However, if the conversation is about the greatest basketball player in Ellwood City history, you have to include Anne Malkowiak who graduated as the all time leading scorer in Beaver County, all time leading scorer in Lawrence county, the first boy or girl to score 2,000 points for Ellwood, and the all time leading scorer for Lincoln High School.
It is a tricky conversation to have as there are a number of reasons why it is difficult to compare these great players to each other. Not to mention whenever the conversations start to get heated, someone throws in the legendary Don Hennon whose 2,376* career points at Wampum from 1951-55 stood as the WPIAL record for 38 years (I added the asterisks because Don earned his points without the benefit of a three point line). As many of you know, the Wampum school district closed and is now part of Ellwood City and Mohawk so he might deserve to be added to this conversation. How good was Don, consider this, the 1958 he was selected for the Associated Press All-American team, along with future NBA stars Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, and Guy Roger.
By default, if you are going to include Dr. Hennon in this conversation, I guess I feel inclined to also add Sean Miller to the mix. True he played his high school ball for his dad’s teams at Blackhawk High School, but he was born and raised in Ellwood City before moving to Blackhawk for his varsity years.
Okay, there you have it, who did I forget? I am sure you will point out great players I forgot like Joe Dougherty but I assure you it was not intentional. I am just going off of previous conversations/arguments I have had or overheard. Please feel free to correct me below or email me at


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