Cheyney University has an outstanding basketball tradition. If you look at the Wolves’ basketball history, there’s no shortage of great players. John Clifton is one of Cheyney’s top basketball players.
The school will recognize Clifton on Friday, Oct. 19 when it inducts him into the Cheyney Athletics Hall of Fame. The ceremony, beginning at 7 p.m., will take place in the Ada S. Georges Dining Hall on the campus of Cheyney University.
Clifton played center and forward from 1968 to 1972 for the Wolves. He averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds a game. Clifton played for head coach Dr. Tony Coma when the Wolves were one of the best Division II teams in the country. Clifton is looking forward to ceremony.
“I looked it up and saw Vivian Stringer,” Clifton said. “When I played she was coaching the women’s (basketball) team. She’s a very good coach. She’s now coaching at Rutgers. Then, of course, Coach (John) Chaney, Hal Booker and the team that won the (1978) national championship with Milton Colston and Roger Leysath. They’re a lot of great players like (Tom) Trooper Washington, (Charles) “Buff” Kirkland, a good friend of mine.”
The list of quality basketball players that came through the Wolves program was very impressive. Clifton remembers all of them.
“Buff and I came in together as freshmen,” Clifton said. “It was amazing Buff didn’t start. I was really amazed at how quickly Buff emerged as a great player. We had Leroy Eldridge. He kept us under control. We called him ‘Captain Leroy.’ He was an upperclassman. He was a very good leader. We had some good guards like Eddie Swain, Robert Dorsey and Antoine Harrison.
“Antoine was a very good shooter. He had a great outside shot. They didn’t have the three-pointer at that time. He would take a jumpshot right near the out of bounds line and next thing you know you would see him making that shot and he would be out of bounds. Julius Williams was another great player.
“Then, we had Vernon Greer (who passed away a few years ago). He was a good player. In fact, Leroy told me to bring Vernon with you when you go into the hall of fame. This is kind of a tribute to him. Vernon talked about this event a few times after I left Cheyney. I really didn’t think about it very much. I didn’t think I would make it, but when it came to this moment I thought about Vernon Greer. He was a great player.”
Clifton was one of the quickest big men in Cheyney history. At 6-7, the school’s student body likened him to Bill Russell, Hall of Famer and Boston Celtic great.
“They gave me that nickname because I was left-handed,” Clifton said. “My technique on that team was playing defense. I tried to block shots underneath the basket. I became pretty good at it. Defense helped our offense. You had to play defense. We had a very fast team. We averaged over 100 points a game. Basically, you know when we had a fastbreak all five of us would be down there.”
Clifton was a great baseball player at Olney High School. He played American Legion Baseball for the Philadelphia Tribune Stars. He had some major league baseball interest from the Cincinnati Reds. He had even talked to Skip Wilson, former Temple baseball coach, about playing college baseball. But everything changed when he decided to visit Cheyney.
Clifton was a member of the NCAA Division II Final 16 team in 1971 and won the state conference championship two consecutive years. He resides in Philadelphia where he is a computer system analyst for Independence Blue Cross.
He will be inducted with the following individuals: Theodore I. Glass (football), Joseph A. Iezzi (athletic trainer), Patricia Pate-Shaw (basketball and volleyball), Marilyn Townsend (tennis) and Wanda Williams (basketball).