It’s always nice to remember those great moments in sports. Howard High School in Wilmington, the first Black high school in Delaware history, will honor its 1973 state championship basketball team in a special halftime ceremony on Feb. 7 when Howard High plays Mount Pleasant High School.
This team will be celebrating its 40th anniversary. Four decades ago, Howard put together a sensational basketball team, which happens to be the first team in Delaware history to finish the season undefeated with a 24-0 record.
Howard High won the Flight A Conference championship. Jay Thomas was the head coach and Stan Hill was the assistant of the Wildcats. Thomas, who passed away in 2007, was the head coach from 1969 to 1974. Thomas and Hill had great basketball minds. They knew the game extremely well.
They were both played basketball together at Cheyney State. Thomas and Hill played for the late Hal Blitman at Cheyney. Hill grew up in Darby and was well aware of Blitman’s coaching exploits. He won back to back state championships (1962 and ’63) at Darby-Colwyn High School. The Rams had a two-year 50-0 record. He coached Hal Booker, Dave Kennard, Sonny Realer, Charles “Pete” Coleman and Adrian Harmond. Hill was a terrific basketball player who brought Darby-Colwyn and Cheyney’s winning ways and life lessons to Howard High.
“It was a good journey and a good ride,” Hill said. “I think coming from Darby everybody had the attitude no matter what you played you were going to win. You played to win. Then, leaving there and going out to Cheyney where I met Jay out there and we played on the same team together. Then, Blitman came out from Darby with that same attitude and was still carried out there.
“After that, Jay and I came down to Wilmington with that same attitude. I think playing in Darby and Cheyney and learning the game helped me. I brought that same attitude down here. That was the foundation Jay and I brought to Howard. We were close. We were like co-coaches. We both had the same philosophy. We were both doing the same thing. The big thing with that year is we were 24-0. We didn’t have the biggest size. But the guys were disciplined and they focused on what they were doing. I think that’s what helped Kenny Hynson. He left us and went on to play for John Chaney (former Cheyney State and Temple head coach). He did really well there.”
Hynson was one of the big stars on the Wildcats championship team. He was one of five guys who averaged 20 points or more per game on that team. Hynson was selected first-team All-State in Delaware. He also had a brilliant college career at Cheyney State playing for Hall of Fame coach John Chaney. In 1978, he led the Wolves to the NCAA Division II title. He is also a member of the Cheyney Athletics Hall of Fame. Hynson has some great memories from that year where Howard High won the state crown.
“It’s great that they going to honor us,” said Hynson, 56, who resides in Wilmington with his wife and family. “I’m really humbled by all of this. It’s amazing I think at Howard we only had like 700 or 800 students compared to some of the other high schools. We were kind of small, but we had a big family with the students, coaches, teammates, cheerleaders, and the community.
“We had a unit where we stayed together, hung out together and played together. We all wanted to play basketball and go to school. We had some great coaches with Jay Thomas and Stan Hill. They taught how to play together and stay together. So, when I went to Cheyney I was ready to play. I knew about the halfcourt press and the fullcourt press. They taught me a lot.”
The Wildcats were loaded with talent. In addition to Hynson, they had some fantastic players such as Mike Miller, Eric Fuller, Wayne Parson, David Roane, Istavan Norwood, Lonnie Sparrow, Lemuel Glover, Rich Miles and others. Fuller played at Essex Community College and led the country in scoring. He played at the University of Rhode Island, too.
Mark Sills, 48, grew up playing basketball in Wilmington. He is the president of Urban Youth, Incorporated, which runs basketball tournaments in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. He was an assistant basketball coach at Howard High for 10 years. He won a state championship as an assistant at Howard High in 1996. Sills was inspired by coaching staff and the players on the 1973 championship team.
“I coached with Mike Miller, Stan Hill and Paul Brown (at Howard High),” Sills said. “It was great coaching there. That was a good experience for me. I really looked up to guys on the 1973 state championship team like Mike Miller and Kenny Hynson. They were well coached by Jay Thomas and Stan Hill. The players are positive role models in the community. I’m really excited about them being honored.”