He came along in what many consider the “Golden Age of Basketball.” He was a quiet and unassuming individual who always spoke in a whisper. But given that, Tom Stith had a basketball game that was loud and sometimes downright nasty.
He and his older brother by two years, Sam, broke barriers, though as Tom often said, “I never he looked at it that way.” But his teammates at St. Bonaventure looked at it that way. Here’s the deal.
Stith, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 71, changed the face of basketball in Western New York, along with Sam, when Sam became the first African-American to bounce a basketball at St. Bonaventure University in Oleans, N.Y. That was in 1956, when Sam entered the school out of St. Francis Prep, leaving his younger brother–but not for long.
Soon enough, Tom joined his brother and together they formed one of the greatest one-two brother acts in basketball, especially college basketball, where Tom became one of the top 10 players in the country.
Together they brought life to an aging St. Bonny program, driving them to a national powerhouse. But it was Tom whose star shined the brightest.
In 1961, the two led the Bonnies to their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid. By the time Sam graduated, Tom was on his way to setting and breaking every record at the school.
Tom, a stone-cold lefty with more moves than a worm trying to escape getting crushed, became a two-time All-American and reached the 2,000-point mark in three seasons. He was later joined by Freddie Crawford, who himself came to the school with All-America H.S. honors. Tom averaged 27 points per game and was second place nationally in scoring, behind Oscar Robertson.
A few months ago, alumni and former teammates of Tom came up to Fordham from St. Bonaventure to recognize the achievements of Tom and Sam and their contributions to the school. They announced a huge work of art would face the front of the athletic building with the names of Tom and Sam. A fitting tribute to a pair of great basketball players, Sam and Tom Stith.