I wanted to post a story about what is perhaps the greatest sports franchise in the area but had a difficult time narrowing the story down to a particular year with all the incredible players to play for Coach Hennon’s Wampum High School Basketball teams. I had planned to follow up this article with a number of articles highlighting the individual players. I would rather hear from you what players you remember, or any other memories you would like to share about the Wampum Indians Basketball Teams.
School Principal and Head Coach Butler Hennon became nationally famous when Life Magazine did a feature on his unusual training techniques and the resulting success in their January 6, 1958 issue. Hennon’s unusual training techniques (unusual at the time) are still used by schools across the nation today.
Practices were held with players wearing oversized rubber boots, a duck jacket weighted with sand, work gloves and blinders. To improve dribbling, players practice wearing gloves and taped glasses to keep them from watching the ball, Tug-Of-War for the ball between players handicapped by galoshes and weighted jackets to make tactic more difficult, medicine balls held high get players accustomed to keeping arms up to block passes, and tires hung from the ceiling for passing drills. Some skeptics could argue with the methods, but no one could argue with the resulting 100+ point games, almost season long winning streaks and the three AA State Titles.
Many of Hennon’s players went on to play at local colleges; most notably first team All American Don Hennon at the University of Pittsburgh and Ron Galbreath NAIA ALL American at Westminster. Noveleski played at St. Francis, Shena and Swogger started for Geneva, Hank Allen had a sensational freshmen year at a small school in Ohio (maybe Baldwin Wallace) and Ron Allen played at Youngstown, and we are sure there are others we are missing. Speaking of the Allen’s, what other small town produced three major league baseball players such as the Allen brothers? From oldest to youngest, the Allen brothers were Harold, Richie, and Ron. Richie went straight from Wampum High School to the Philadelphia Phillies. Harold (or Hank) played basketball at Baldwin Wallace in Ohio his first year out of High School and then signed with the Phillies at the same time Richie (Dick) did. Ron was younger and was key to the 1960 AA title team and he played seven games in the majors for the St Louis Cardinals. There are some that would argue that Harold Allen had the best chance of reaching the NBA, even more so than the all-time great Don Hennon, but he gave up basketball for baseball.
All this from a school with around 100 students in High School and sixty percent of the student body were girls.
5 comments on “Wampum High School Basketball”
Bob Mallary wrote: I had the pleasure of playing baseball and a little bit of basketball against Wampum in the mid-fifties. These guys were unbelievable. Hennon made regular hook shots from the corner and would have been in the NBA except for his 5’8? or so height. They had many other good athletes. Some of the ones I remember were the Melfi’s, Eugene and Fran Bennett, Joe Shinisky, Tom Galbreath, Swanik, Matthews, and there were probably many others. I remember watching Dick Allen play second base for Wampum in the County league when he was 14. How could all these guys come from the Wampum area? It would be interesting to learn what happened to them and if any now live in the area.
Bob Mallary wrote: I also heard about the older brothers of the Allens, Coy and Ceasar
Craine. They were star basketball players, perhaps in the late 40’s or real early 50’s.
Frank Geniviva wrote: Hank Allen DID go to Baldwin-Wallace his freshman year.
Bob Mallary wrote: I remember seeing Hank play against Westminster when he was a freshman at Baldwin-Wallace. He jumped center on the opening tip (he may have been 6’2?) and controlled it against the Westminster 6’7? or so center. He dominated the entire game and I think I remember Baldwin-Wallace went to the semi-finals in the National NAIA that year. Hey Frank, do you know if he or any other of the brothers live in the area, or if they had any athletic kids that were good enough to play college or pro sports?
Bob Mallary wrote: Concerning Hank Allen, Dick Rosen a former Ewing Park baseball player with me in the fifties, was on a radio interview with Hank on Memorial Day, and sent me the link to listen to it from a Philadelphia area station. Hank said he was now an advance scout for the Houston Astro’s and covers Washington, Baltimore, and Philadephia area’s. Hank said his first love was basketball, and that he had a tryout with the pro’s but was cut when he had to compete against Jerry West. He remember well playing against Dick at Ewing Park and mentioned one time when Dave Florie (EC via Koppel) got a game winning hit against him when he was pitching. He also inquired about Ron Hughes from EC and Dick told him he played in the minors but hurt his arm and never got a chance to go in higher.