GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Memories of the 1986-1987 Richard Stockton College men's basketball team dominated the Stockton Athletics Hall of Fame dinner at the Campus Center on Friday.
Many of the players on that team returned to find a fully modernized Stockton campus with many buildings that didn't exist 25 years ago.
The Stockton Athletics Hall of Fame, now in its third year, individually inducted George Briscoe and Donald Ellison of that 1987 team, plus women's basketball player Kelli Bakanowsky (2003) and women's soccer player Shannon Keelan (2000). The 1987 Ospreys, who lost to Clark University in the NCAA Division III semifinals in Grand Rapids, Mich., were the team inductee.
Those who spoke, including Gerry Matthews, the longtime and current men's basketball coach, pointed out that his 1986-87 Stockton team was a pioneer. That team was the school's first New Jersey Athletic Conference champion, and the first Stockton team to make a Final Four.
Briscoe, 46, a Union resident, brought much of his family and some friends to the event. He's now vice president of United Community Corporation, a social-services program in Newark.
"This is amazing," said Briscoe. "I'm so grateful that they put me in Stockton's Hall of Fame. After 25 years, it feels like a family reunion and a school reunion all in one. I haven't seen most of the guys on the team. I see Ray (Magee) and Donald (Ellison) sometimes. I see Coach Matthews all the time. He asks me if I can give one of his kids a job that's in his program."
Briscoe, Ellison, Bakanowsky and Keelan took turns at the podium, thanking Stockton's past and present school officials and coaches, plus family and friends.
Also there were Chris Crowley and Roy Heck, two of the assistant coaches on the 1987 team. Heck, a former Stockton player, went on to become the Mainland Regional High School boys basketball coach for three years, and will soon begin his 15th year as the Pemberton High School coach.
"It feels great to see the guys on the team," said Heck, 50, a resident of Shamong in Burlington County. "They look great and they seem like they have as much energy as they did in '87. I've had a chance to see many of their kids play, and the kids play with the same kind of ability. I'm glad I've had a chance to enjoy Gerry's coaching the last 25 years, both as a coach and a fan. He just finds a way to win."
Ellison, the senior team leader of the 1987 team, had a team-high average of 15.5 points and 7.0 rebounds as the Ospreys went 23-8 overall.
Briscoe, a junior in 1987, was a guard who scored 787 points in only two years at Stockton. He tore his ACL in a 68-65 overtime win over Widener University in an NCAA Division III quarterfinal in 1987 and missed the Final Four. But Briscoe returned in the 1988 season and helped Stockton win the NJAC again.
Bakanowsky is the second all-time scorer in Stockton women's basketball with 1,629 points. She helped Stockton win its first NJAC title as a freshman in 2000. Bakanowsky holds school records for assists (342), free throws (399) and free throw percentage (.809).
Keelan scored 21 goals in 1998, then a school record. She holds the Stockton record for game-winning goals in a season (8). She ranks third at Stockton in career goals (46) and points (117). Keelan also played women's basketball for the Ospreys and averaged 11.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in 55 career games.
Some of the other key players on the 1987 men's basketball team were Rodney Perkins, Pat Mullahey, David Smith, James Sheard, Gary Harmon, and John Connell.
"To see people again and to see where they're at is unbelievable," said the 48-year-old Smith, the 1987 team's top 3-point shooter and a Dennis Township resident.
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