Penn Athletics will be inducting its Hall of Fame Class VIII this Saturday, May 5 at the Inn at Penn. As we prepare for the upcoming ceremony, we will be introducing each inductee over the next several days. Click here to find the original release on all the inductees, from February 22.
Already a member of the Philadelphia Big 5 Hall of Fame, tonight Joe Sturgis takes his rightful place in the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame. It is an honor long overdue.
Any qualms with this selection? Take a look at the Penn men's basketball record book. Even today, his name is peppered throughout.
Nearly 60 years after his graduation from Penn, Sturgis remains 17th on Penn's all-time scoring list with 1,292 points. (Keep in mind he reached that number in three seasons!) At the time of his graduation, Sturgis was third on the program's all-time list, behind only Ernie Beck and Herb Lyon. Perhaps more impressive, Sturgis' 17.5 points-per-game average for his career remains fifth all-time. In addition, Sturgis is still second all-time with 628 career free-throw attempts, third with 426 career free throws made, and third with 924 career rebounds.
Sturgis made quite a splash as a sophomore, averaging a team-high 16.1 points per game and grabbing 244 rebounds. That included a 25-rebound performance against Yale on January 2, a figure that remains sixth in Penn's single-game record book. Sturgis also took 197 free throws that season, a number that sits 10th on the Quakers' single-season chart.
His junior year, Sturgis helped Penn to a share of the Eastern Intercollegiate League (EIL) championship -- the Quakers went 10-4 in league play to tie Princeton and Columbia. He grabbed 309 rebounds that season (a total that is still ninth on Penn's single-season list), took 233 free throws (third), and made 156 of them (fourth). On Dec. 17 of that season, he hit 17 free throws in Penn's 87-75 win over Iowa, a single-game record that has been matched four other times in program history but never surpassed.
Sturgis was a co-captain of the 1955-56 squad along with Francis Mulroy. He once again led the Red and Blue in scoring, averaging 18.6 ppg, grabbed a team-high 371 rebounds (still fifth on Penn's single-season list), and took 198 foul shots (ninth).
Sturgis' career coincided with the beginning of both the Ivy League and the Philadelphia Big 5. His senior year, he was honored as a first-team selection by both organizations. He also received The Food Fair Award that year, awarded to one Big 5 player annually for leadership, scholarship and sportsmanship.
"My first memories of playing basketball take me back to shooting balls into a peach basket on our driveway along Baltimore Ave. in Philadelphia. In the early days, I would spend hours shooting and playing for the main reason that it was fun. It was fun to play, fun to get better, fun to compete, and of course fun to win! Later on, when I played at Penn, I did so for the very same reason -- it was fun. In playing this great game, I learned a lot of valuable life lessons that strengthened me as a person and serve me well to this very day. I experienced firsthand how heart, hard work, hustle and unwavering resolve could allow a lanky, clumsy kid who couldn't make his high school team until his senior year become a Hall of Fame player at the University of Pennsylvania. I receive this Hall of Fame honor with the utmost humility, knowing the many great people who share this honor with me-too many to name, although I must acknowledge a few. My late brother, Jack, who was my idol, friend and guide. I share this honor with all my teammates and coaches with whom I played at every level along the way. Basketball is the ultimate team sport, and every one of my teammates and coaches helped me become the player I became and the person I am today. I must thank my good buddy and classmate, C.T. Alexander, who led the effort to see this honor awarded. I am grateful for your friendship, C.T. I am blessed today to have my family -- my four children Joe, Doug, Pat and Courtland, along with their loving spouses and my 12 grandchildren are my everyday gifts. I love you all. Lastly, I cannot capture into words my greatest teammate ever, my loving wife of 45 years, Harriet. Your boundless love and constant care belongs in God's Hall of Fame of life. Thank you!"