THE 2022 WILLIE STARGELL MVP AWARDEES—Joy Bey, Ulice Payne, Penn Hills Mayor Pauline Calabrese, Guy Junker, Jerry Chiapinelli, Monica Malik, Brice Flenory, Amirah Gibbons.
by Bill Neal, For New Pittsburgh Courier
Pittsburgh is called the “City of Champions” for a reason, and it was demonstrated loud and proud at the 48th annual…and consecutive Willie “Pops” Stargell Pittsburgh MVP Awards Banquet and the Connie “The Hawk” Hawkins Summer Basketball League Hall of Fame Inductions, May 28, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Monroeville.
The event was sponsored by Frank Fuhrer Corporation, UPMC, The Office of the Chief Executive of Allegheny County, Franco Harris/Super Bakery and Pirate Charities.
I was honored and blessed by Pops 48 years ago to establish an event to honor those people who help make Pittsburgh someplace special and continuing the credo, “We are Fam-i-lee.”
It was shortly thereafter that I met the legendary Connie Hawkins working out at the Homewood YMCA where I was Program Director. After a short conversation of my plan, “The Hawk” gave us his name. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The league quickly became both nationally and internationally recognized and was ranked in the top five leagues in the U.S., along with the Harlem Rucker League in New York where Connie first gained superstar fame, the L.A. Lakers League, the Washington D.C. Coalition League, the Sonny Hill League in Philadelphia and the Bulls Summer League in Chicago.
DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY LEGEND BARON “BB” FLENORY, PENN HILLS MAYOR PAULINE CALEBRESE, HARLEM RUCKER/PENN STATE LEGEND RON BROWN
For 40 years it wasn’t just basketball, it was an event…the place to be five nights a week for eight weeks every summer. From Homewood to East Hills to Champions Park in East Liberty, people came from miles around and surrounding states to see some of the greatest players of all-time. The likes of Connie Hawkins, Kenny Durrett, Charles Smith, Norm Nixon, Ron Carter, Ron Brown, Kirk Bruce, Robert “Jeep” Kelly, Maurice Lucas, Jason “White Chocolate” Williams, Ulice Payne, Myron Brown, BB Flenory, Keith Staar, Tim Appleton and Grandson Shawn Hawkins, just to name a very few.
With the star power from both Stargell and Hawkins came sports camps, clinics, lunch programs, field trips, leagues, tournaments, countless T-shirts, caps, jackets and of course, the goodwill brother and sisterhood and the recognition that lives on today.
We all were privileged to have been in “The Wheelhouse” of Mr. Stargell and to have flown with “The Hawk!”
COACH ODELL MILLER, WITH ONE OF THE SENSATION MODELS
THE MONROEVILLE LITTLE LEAGUERS…