Engineering majors dominated UD basketball in early 1960s
4:16 p.m., Feb. 21, 2012--What stands well over 6 feet tall, can rebound and score with the best players in the nation and intimately understands the concepts of mechanical systems?
Surprisingly, the answer is almost any University of Delaware player on the 1961-62 basketball team, which posted an outstanding record of 18-5. In fact, nine of the 12 players that year were engineering majors; five majored in mechanical engineering.
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“Many of the team members were ‘walk-ons’ without benefit of scholarships or financial aid packages,” said Bill Wagamon, the team’s co-captain and one of several members who celebrated the team’s 50th anniversary during a halftime ceremony as part of Alumni Hoops Hysteria at the Bob Carpenter Center on Jan. 14.
Nate Cloud, Dave Sysko and Pete Cloud led the team in scoring and rebounding. Nate Cloud and Sysko were inducted into the Delaware Sports and Museum Hall of Fame, as well as the UD Sports Hall of Fame and the Colonial Athletic Association Legends.
Cloud, UD’s first All-American basketball player, would be drafted by the NBA's New York Knicks following graduation.
John Barry, the team’s storyteller and co-captain, recalled a game during which UD’s “academic lineup” outshone their opponent, the University of Michigan. “[The Wolverines] had two poli sci majors and one economics major on their starting five and they were busting their buttons,” Barry remembered.
“Basketball is a game that requires both intellect and skill. We used our academic and athletic talents to give us an edge,” added Sysko.
Following college, several of the team members received Reserve officer commissions in the U.S. Army, serving at least two years on active duty.All of the players went on to successful careers in business, engineering, medicine and law.
One of the ways the team has stayed connected at UD is by creating a scholarship fund for engineering student-athletes.
Funded primarily by the 1961, 1962 and 1963 men’s basketball teams, the Coach Irv Wisniewski Sports/Engineering Scholarship honors their former coach, Irv (Whiz) Wisniewski. The current recipient of the endowed scholarship is Mollie Smith, an energy and environmental policy major and member of the Blue Hens women’s lacrosse team.
“It’s very rewarding to help current student athletes in the name of our basketball coach, whom we have grown to respect even more as we reflect on what an inspiration and life role model he has been to us,” said Cloud.
Article by Janie Sikes