Widener University had one of the best Division III basketball teams in the nation during the 1977-78 season. Widener advanced to the national championship game with a 26-5 record that season.
Former Northeast High basketball star Mark Tucker was a key member of that outstanding team. Tucker and his teammates will be inducted into the Widener Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday, Oct. 12 at Springfield Country Club. The ceremony will start at 7 p.m.
The Pride were a real powerhouse that season. Widener went all the way to the championship game where they lost to North Park, 69-57, in Rock Island, Illinois. Tucker averaged 13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds a game that season. He has some great memories playing for Widener.
“We won 21 games in a row that year,” Tucker said, “We played North Park out in Illinois. We had scouted them the night before. We knew they had two All-Americans on that team, Michael Harper (who played in the National Basketball Association with the Portland Trail Blazers) and Modzel Greer (who played in The Netherlands)... We did a wonderful job on those two guys, but the guards shot 14-of-24 [from the field]. We were down 11 at halftime. Our offense was geared to score, but we couldn’t score that quick. We never got back into it. We lost by 11.”
The late C. Alan Rowe was the head coach of this great team, which featured All-American and Philadelphia 76ers’ draft pick Dennis James along with Mike Donohue, Archie Hughes, Vince Shervin and David Ordille. Tucker knows this was a special team.
“The chemistry and relationships that were built on that team were the driving force,” Tucker said. We were a very diverse team. We had suburban guys. We had city guys. We had rural guys. Coach Rowe was able to put it together. It was a tremendously good group of guys and till this day I think about it.”
Tucker gives a lot of credit to the Sonny Hill League for his development. The league provided opportunities for several players who went on to play at Widener over the years.
“I know [former Widener basketball stars] Dennis Woodbury and Dennis James played in the Sonny Hill League,” Tucker said. “I played in the Sonny Hill League. I had gone to Northeast High School. I didn’t play for the Northeast team. I tried out for the Germantown team and we all played in the Sonny Hill League.
“You really learned and got a window of where you should be and how you can get better. I remember Mr. [Vince] Miller, Tony Samartino and Tee Shields. Tee Shields and Mr. Miller told me I was 6-foot-4 and 165 pounds or something like that. I could jump. I could get off the floor and could defend. I was still growing. They told me, ‘look you don’t lay it up at all. You try to dunk the ball every time. It was such a competitive environment. I played with Chris Keebler, Walt Montford and Gary Devlin. That was my Sonny Hill League team.”
Today, Tucker owns a Re/Max franchise in Philadelphia. He’s involved with the Reach Out and Read program at St. Christopher’s Hospital. He still plays pick up basketball at Germantown Friends. Tucker is looking forward to see all his friends and teammates at the hall of fame ceremony.