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Banquetmania not half bad

POSTED May 01, 2013
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson


                                              Banquetmania not half bad


           THOMASTON – Welcome to Banquetmania. Tis the season to honor all and all are being honored as we head towards the summer.  Torrington High added to its Hall of Fame Sunday by inducting another class.  The Connecticut Women’s Basketball of Fame welcomed new members last week at the Cascade in Hamden and the Connecticut Sportswriters Alliance held its Gold Key dinner Sunday at the Aqua Turf in Southington.

            And the list goes on. There is a High School Coaches Association Dinner this Sunday, end of the year school banquets, sports clubs banquets. It is a glorious time for those who don’t like to cook, not so good of a time for those watching their waistlines grow like the dandelions in my yard and those who have short arms and deep pockets when looking to pony up for tickets.

            I was at both the Sportswriters Alliance Dinner with the distinguished Mr. Tim Gaffney, soon to be ex-potato chip salesman and major domo of this website, and the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Dinner at the Cascade in Hamden.

            Let’s just get the food out of the way first. If you have ever been to the Aqua Turf you know what I’m talking about here. They served me a piece of prime rib that was the size of one of Fred Flintstone’s Bronto burgers.  Then they come around and ask you if you want to take some home.

            Just for the record, I declined. The way it was, Gaffney had to call O&G for a crane to get me out of my seat and to the car.  Interesting thing, they put a bowel of vegetables on the table and barely got touched. Go figure. Of course it wouldn’t fit on the plate. Nice meal at the Cascade but nobody does prime rib like the Aqua Turf. By the way, my belt is growling.

            The Sportswriters Alliance dinner honored a bevy of worthy athletes including former Masuk High, Duke University and 14-year NBA veteran Mike Giminski and New England’s all-time leading collegiate scorer and top-notch basketball referee Gary Libertore who attended New Haven College (,3176 points, 31.7 avg.).

            The area attraction was Ansonia’s superb running back junior Arkeel Newsome who accepted the award as the state’s top high school male athlete.

            The most fun was at Table 22 where Gaffney and I were joined but a couple of unexpected guests. Former Torrington Register and New Britain Herald Sports Editor and my former boss and colleague, Gerry de Simas was on hand and it was fun to catch up.

            You won’t find a better newspaper man or guy than Gerry. I enjoyed my time working with him in the late 1980s and 1990s. He is also the state’s guru on high school wrestling and does a superb job with it. In his usual professional manner, Gerry was taking photos for future use.

            It was fun to share a side of the cow with him and talk about old and new times. About 10 minutes after the dinner started, another distinguished visitor joined us at our table. He introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Walter Luckett.”

He had my attention immediately. Anybody who has been around Connecticut sports for while knows the name Walt Luckett. I have been around a while and the name is basketball magic.

Walt Luckett played for Kolbe Cathedral in the early 1970s. Actually played is a gross understatement. Luckett dominated. He was a shooter’s shooter. His ball ignored the rim with an almost surreal regularity while ripping through the bottom of the net.

With a distinct left-handed shot that started behind his neck and then zeroed in on the hoop, the 6-foot-4 Luckett scored 2,691 points and is still New England’s all-time leading scorer. He averaged a triple double his senior year. Try these numbers on for size – 39.5 points, 16 rebounds, 13 assists per game.

As a freshman at Ohio University Luckett earned a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He went on to earn All-American honors while averaging 20.5 over three seasons. He then was drafted by the Detroit Pistons. In one game he scored 28 points against a team that included Dr. J, Julius Irving and Earl `The Pearl’ Monroe.

An ACL injury ended his career but you get the picture, this is basketball royalty. Luckett, who was recruited by everybody at that time except John Wooden, regaled us with stories of his career. He knew Dean Smith well, loved Jimmy Valvano and Dave Gavitt wanted him to play with Marvin Barnes and Ernie Degregorio.

Whose table was better than ours? Luckett is now in the financial field and helps out Kolbe Cathedral. It was a pleasure to spend some time with him, he was every bit a class act.

The Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Dinner had a bit more of a local touch with Thomaston High’s Amy Matthews being inducted after brilliant careers at Thomaston High and Western Connecticut State University.

Matthews was clearly proud of her family and her family which includes sister Katie and brother John, both 1,000-point scorers during their high school days. Her family was clearly proud of her.

Thomaston High Athletic Director Bob McMahon and Northwestern Regional coach Fred Williams who deserves the honor and will get in one day, was there with his daughter Stacey Zemaitis who played with Matthews at Western. Hall of Famer and former Wamogo coach  Candy Perez was also there to lend support.

It was also a pleasure to watch Portland High girls coach Nick Chaconis be inducted after 38 years as coach of the Highlanders. Chaconis was hilarious with his speech and is another one of those class acts you can’t get enough of.

A highlight of the evening was running into Nick and Pam Moffo who I haven’t seen in 25 years. Nick, a Watertown guy, coached Thomaston to the Berkshire League title in 1982 and may have won a state title if John Hurlbert hadn’t gone down with a sprained ankle before the Western Division championship game.

The Bears lost but Nick, who went on to coach for 11 seasons and teach for 21 years in West Hartford, remembered Hurlbert as, “absolutely the best player I ever coached.” Nick also followed the THS girls to the Class S title game this March and couldn’t help notice a player – Abby Hurlbert.

“I wondered if she was related to John,” he said. Daughter Nick, daughter. Apple and tree.

Also had a chance for a brief chat with Geno Auriemma, Chris Dailey and Jen Rizzotti on the night. Not a bad way to spend an evening.

Prime rib, Walter Luckett, Nick Moffo, Amy Matthews, Arkeel Newsome, Geno, Chris, Jen, Gerry. All in all, there is something to be said for banquetmania.


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