East Orange HS Boys Basketball Hall of Fame formed

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EAST ORANGE, NJ — When it comes to high school boys basketball, East Orange undoubtedly has a storied history.

The East Orange High School boys basketball program boasted dominant teams in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. 

The 1960s included such star players as Lenny Williams, Ken Macklin, Hassan Greg Ali James, the late Billy Lovett and the late Harry James, who later became an athletic director at EOHS.

East Orange, under legendary head coach Bob Lester, won numerous Essex County and state sectional tournament championships as one of the premier programs in the state.

With so many incredible players during those glorious times, an East Orange Boys Basketball Hall of Fame is being formed.

Lester, a Central High School Class of 1964 alumnus, and Ken Macklin, an EOHS Class of 1966 alumnus, are consultants on the Hall of Fame committee, which includes East Orange alumni James Pitchford, Class of 1977; Gwendolyn Barnes, Class of 1968; Roy Hinton, Class of 1973; and Rodney Williams, Class of 1975.

Among the nominees for the first induction class are Mike Dabney, Dennis Motley, Warren Melvin III, Cleveland Eugene, Clyde Bradshaw, Mike Booker and the late Ken Young.

The first induction ceremony is being planned for the first quarter of 2022.

From 1969 to 1978, East Orange won an amazing 230 games and lost only 30.

After being runner-up in the Essex County Tournament in 1972 and 1973, East Orange won four straight ECT titles from 1974 to 1977 with Lester at the helm. In 1974, East Orange defeated then-undefeated Orange in the final, 76-72, avenging two regular-season losses. 

Orange was No. 1 in the state at the time and East Orange was No. 2. East Orange finished 25-4 in 1974. 

The following year, East Orange brought a 39-game winning streak into the Group 3 state final against Lakewood. Some extra seconds were put back on the clock when the game apparently ended, and Lakewood went on to stun East Orange, which finished with a remarkable 29-1 record. The next year, East Orange went on a 17-game winning streak to start the season.

In Rodney Williams’ senior year in 1975, East Orange averaged around 99 points a game, topping 100 points in seven games. What’s remarkable is the fact that there was no three-point line at the time and high school games are only 32 minutes long.

“We had a lot of firepower, no doubt,” said Williams in a recent phone interview with the Record-Transcript.

In the 1976 and 1977 ECT finals, East Orange defeated Kelly Tripucka–led Bloomfield teams. Tripucka later played at Notre Dame and in the NBA. The 1976 EOHS team was ranked No. 1 in the state.

In the history of the ECT, which began in 1947, East Orange has won eight titles, tied with Shabazz for second all-time, behind Seton Hall Prep’s 17 titles. The other county titles came in 1970, 1981, 1986 and 1987. East Orange has appeared in 12 ECT finals, which is third all-time behind Seton Hall Prep with 27 and Shabazz with 15.

This year’s nominees are:

1960s

Lenny Wlliams

Ken Macklin

Hassan Greg Ali James

Billy Raye

Bobby Sheffield

* Briscoe Belcher

Bob Pierce

Luther Bowen

*Harry James

*Billy Lovett

*Gary Turner

Myron Turner

Morris Turner

Roger Marshall

1970s

Warren Melvin III

Dennis Motley

Mike Dabney

Mike Booker

*Ken Young

Dennis Ross

James Pitchford

Daryl “Juice” Gregory

Daryl Roberts

Floyd Jefferson

Reggie Baker

Rodney “Hot Rod” Williams

Kim Fisher

*George Ramsey

Ken Daniels

Ron Harris

Jimmy “Mack” Saunders

James Gist “Leapin”Ray Smith

Tyrone Miles

Clyde Bradshaw

Cleveland Eugene

Cathy Baker

Towan Butler

1980s

Russell Scott

Greg McLaughlin

Tony George

Wallace Williams

Brooklyn Smith

Erroll “Pearl” Flannigan

Mark Gray — EOHS All-Time leading Scorer

Troy Glover

Billy White

Paulette Bigelow

Janice Walker

Jamal “Peanut” Williamson

1990s

Rodney Brutton

TJ Frazier

Eric Watkins

Shawn Jackson

2000s

Aaron Nelums — 1,000-point scorer     

These nominations are based  solely on a player’s career at EOHS. It  considers the player’s overall  contribution to his team’s success. Individual awards such as: All Oranges  All County All State and All Conference. A player’s character on and off the Court is a factor as well. 

* Deceased Players

Photos courtesy of Rodney Williams

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