A phenomenal athlete with a love of music, Tony Lavelli came to Williston Academy as a post-graduate. He was elected captain of the varsity basketball team and led the team to a 14-0 record, scoring 307 points out of the team’s 672 total, before moving to tennis in the spring.
At the end of the year, Coach Lash toldThe Log that it had been “probably the greatest team in Williston’s basketball history.”
“This can be attributed to several factors,” the yearbook went on, “accurate shooting, aggressive team play, smart ball handling, and especially to a certain chap by the name of Tony Lavelli. Tony’s marvelous team play and sparkling leadership helped the Lashmen tremendously as Williston produced its first undefeated basketball team in thirty-five years.”
At Yale University, Tony scored 1,970 points (a school record that stood for 35 years) and, in his senior year, led the nation in (averaging 22.4 points per game).
Tony was named second team All-American selection in 1946 and 1948 and a first team All-American selection in 1949. He was also named the College Player of the Year. In February 1949, Life magazine called his hook shot “the most spectacular offensive weapon in college basketball history.”
Tony was the number four overall pick of the Boston Celtics in the 1949 NBA draft. In his rookie year, he averaged 8.8 points per game; he was traded to the NY Knicks the following year.
Tony had a great love of music, so he had it written into his contracts with the Celtics and Knicks that he could play the accordion at halftime to entertain the crowds. After his first year with the Knicks, he quit the NBA to pursue a career in music at The Juilliard School. Tony then returned to play for the Harlem Globetrotters, where be was named captain of the College All-Star team and the Globetrotters musical director. Tony went on to release two albums and had a long career as a songwriter and musician.
In a March 1949 issue of Sport Life Magazine, Anthony “Tony” Lavelli ’45, who as trained as a musician, was described as having taken up basketball for relaxation—a nice break from his musical training.
“Some think that the secret of Lavelli’s prodigious scoring—he averages 20 points a game against the severest opposition—is in his hands, the hands that were trained for music,” the magazine said. “They are large, powerful hands, with tensile fingers, fingers study enough to control a basketball held at arm’s length.”
The Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony, dinner, and reception was held on Saturday, June 6, 2015. Tony was the Veteran’s Committee selection for the 2015 Athletic Hall of Fame. His award was presented by Jake Ross ‘16 and accepted by his sister, Ginny Lovett.
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