UCONN Hoop Legends: WESLEY BIALOSUKNIA
Wes Bialosuknia was a Guard for the UConn Huskies from 1964 - 1967.
is the only UConn player in history to average better than 20 points per game in each season, was a three time First Team All-Yankee Conference selection, and was the first academic All-American at the University of Connecticut
He's a member of the UConn Basketball All-Century Team, and a member of the first class of Huskies of Honor Program-to name just a few of his basketball accomplishments.
I had the pleasure of meeting Wes
in October 2007 as he
reflected on his
college basketball memories.
grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York, and had more of a passion for baseball than basketball.
"I wanted to make it to the major leagues as a baseball player, but one day my father asked me if I wanted to go to a basketball game.
I walked into the game wanting to be a baseball player; I walked out wanting to be a basketball player.
proceeded to go to the library, read some books about basketball, worked on the mechanics, and shot 1000's of shots over the years.
wanted to be just like Jerry West (one of the greatest Guards in National Basketball Association history) even taking #44 on his
jersey like Jerry.
Wes went to Franklin D. Roosevelt High School.
While at Roosevelt High, Wes
set a record-scoring 40 points in one game, and during his
senior year averaged 28 points per game.
received a few recruiting letters and then quite a few more after winning his
high school tournament.
"I wanted to go to UConn
I had gone to UConn
with my dad a couple of times and I
really liked it but they didn't have a scholarship for me." Wes
went on a recruiting visit to Syracuse University one Sunday afternoon where all the coaches wanted him, so Wes
said, "Okay fine, I'll go to Syracuse.
had verbally committed to Syracuse.
arrived at UConn he
found the transition from high school to college somewhat difficult.
"It was a big transition in total.
I remember I was at UConn
for about a month and I thought, I don't know if I can play here.
I took off one weekend and went back to Poughkeepsie and my father said, "Look, you accepted a scholarship, you go for it.
I went back to UConn
that following Monday and I'm glad I did."
was a long-range shooter and some say he
may be one of the best in National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball history.
Other players may have been given the green light but never to the degree of an outside shot like Wes's
wasn't known for his
was happy to let the other team shoot so he
could hurry up and get the ball back.
sophomore year he
had been given the name the "Poughkeepsie Popper" by the well know WTIC radio announcers George Ehrlich and Floyd Richards.
Numerous times during Wes
's career at UConn listeners would hear Ehrlich say "He
stops...he pops... swish... Bialosuknia scores from downtown Storrs," as he'd describe a 30-foot jumper by Wes.
To this day Wes
is often referred to as the "Poughkeepsie Popper".
owns the record for single-season scoring average 28 points per game during his
senior year, (the same scoring average as his
senior year in high school) career leader in free throw shooting percentage 83.9%, and is number seven on the career scoring list with 1,673 points in only three seasons without a three point line.
If points were counted then the way they are now, Wes
would have a lot more points.
One of Wes's favorite games was against Boston College his
sophomore year when the Huskies
beat a quality team on the road in overtime.
Another memorable game was as a senior, his
final home game at the Field House.
had scored 40 points, and some people say it was one of the noisiest games ever at the Field House.
There was also the Maine game when Wes
broke the record-scoring 50 points in one game.
On the same night at 38 points he
broke the all-time scoring record.
numerous accomplishments at UConn
is most proud of being honored as the school's first Academic All American.
He graduated from UConn with a Bachelors Degree in Economics with a minor in Political Science.
After UConn Wes was drafted in the National Basketball Association
in the fourth round by St. Louis.
"I never signed with St. Louis because they wouldn't give me a no-cut contract.
The American Basketball Association
(ABA) offered me a three year no-cut contract so I went for it, and played for the Oakland Oaks.
first season he
got traded back to Hartford, CT where he
played in the Eastern League
for two years.
had a three point line, and Wes
set a record scoring nine straight.
When the merger between ABA
took place in 1976, Wes
still held the record.
After his ABA
three year contract was up, Wes
decided to put the basketball away.
"I realized my playing days were over.
There were other things in life.
worked at The Hartford Times
followed by The Bristol Press
in the Circulation Department for many years.
wife of 33 years, Maureen, who at the time didn't know anything about his
Maureen went back to school to become a registered nurse.
They had a family, a son John, 26, who enjoyed the sport of baseball more than basketball, and a daughter Jane, 28, who was a good basketball player specializing in three-point baskets, but she
has also put the basketball away, and made Wes
and Maureen grandparents to two children, Tomas and Sophia.
and Maureen have become interested in the outdoor sport of climbing.
The have climbed 40 of the highest peaks in the USA.
They have driven cross country and back twice, and enjoy Bear Mountain, Connecticut's highest peak in the northwest corner.
"Once I knew my playing days were over, things that I was never interested in all of a sudden became interesting.
also developed Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, a condition which
affects the ulner nerve, one of the main nerves in the hand.
Maureen had noticed it when they first met, and it has progressively gotten worse.
"Maybe three years ago I went outside to shoot some three pointers through the basket that remains on my garage, and
I just couldn't do it."
has remained a private person for almost 40 years.
was present at a game in 1977 when Tony Hanson broke his
record for total points.
It wasn't until the year 2001 that Wes
was at the Hartford Civic Center
again, and that was for a game to be honored as a member of the UConn Basketball All-Century Team.
February 2007 was the first time Wes
entered Gampel Pavilion to be honored as one of 16 all-time UConn greats inducted in the first Huskies
of Honor Program.
It took some time but he's
ready to reflect on those days as the Poughkeepsie Popper, and maybe we'll even see him at a game at the Hartford Civic Center
some day soon.