As the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame prepares to enshrine its latest class, one theme has held true: the national impact made by its inductees. Its 17th class will be no different.
The honorees include a baseball executive team whose commitment brought Double-A baseball to Altoona, an NBA general manager in the midst of a highly successful career, a man who has made an international impact in biathlon and two athletes who achieved considerable success at the Division I level.
“We think this is another outstanding class of inductees,” Blair County Sports Hall of Fame president Neil Rudel said. “It’s a tribute to our great sports history that in the Hall of Fame’s 28th year and 17th induction, we still have candidates who have achieved national recognition, which is our No. 1 criteria.”
The 2016 Hall induction class, set for enshrinement on Saturday, April 23, 2016 at the Blair County Convention Center, includes Altoona Curve owners Bob and Joan Lozinak, Detroit Pistons GM Jeff Bower, United States biathlon champion Doug Hoover, Bishop Guilfoyle and West Virginia football player Thom Geishauser and Jennifer (Shingler) Hansberry, who excelled on the hardwood at Altoona and the University of Pittsburgh.
In addition, the Hall of Fame is inducting Williamsburg’s two championship boys basketball teams — the 1958 and 1966 squads.
The 2016 class will bring the total number of individual inductees to 90, with eight teams being honored.
Football and basketball form a strong foundation in the Hall, and Geishauser and Shingler continue that.
Shingler, a four-year starter for the Pitt Lady Panthers and three-year co-captain, was just the sixth player in Pitt history to reach 1,000 points, and she still ranks 15th all-time with 1,081 points. Her excellence at Pitt was capped with the Blue-Gold Award, given to one male and one female student for a combination of athletics and academics. Shingler co-captained and was the leading scorer for Altoona Area High School’s first PIAA Class AAAA championship girls basketball team, which went unbeaten (31-0) and was voted No. 1 in the country by USA Today.
Geishauser, a three-year letterman (1970-72) who earned a starting spot at cornerback late in his sophomore season at WVU and kept it, played under head coach Bobby Bowden. His seven interceptions as a senior ranked eighth in the country and still stand as the second-highest single-season total in Mountaineer history.
“Both Jenny and Thom were determined by our selection committee to be the most accomplished of the many football and basketball players that we considered,” Rudel said. “Both were team leaders at a high level of Division I competition.”
Hoover, a Tyrone native, enjoyed an internationally successful career competing in the biathlon, which combines distance running and rifle shooting. A five-time national champion, Hoover won three consecutive USBA Summer Biathlon national titles and competed in three world championships. His 15th-place finish in the sprint in Italy in 2003 represented his highest place finish internationally.
“The last few years have included more of the Olympic sports than the Hall of Fame’s early inductions, and Doug Hoover’s accomplishments really jumped out,” Rudel said. “He’s not only made his mark nationally in biathlon competition but internationally.”
A pair of executives round out the individual honorees.
Lozinak’s lifelong dream to bring professional baseball to his hometown became reality during the Curve’s inaugural season in 1999, and the organization has become a community staple ever since. After selling the team in 2001, he reacquired the Curve seven years later, and he currently runs the franchise with his wife, Joan, and three sons.
Before bringing the Curve to Altoona, Lozinak twice received the John H. Johnson trophy, given annually to the top franchise in minor league baseball, when he owned the Albuquerque Dukes. Lozinak also owned the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx.
“The Curve have brought unprecedented national exposure to Altoona, and they’ve done it in a way that the community has appreciated and strongly supported,” Rudel said. “Although the players have lived here and technically meet criteria for consideration, we felt there was no better way than to recognize the Curve than to induct their owners, Bob and Joan Lozinak, both local natives who brought Double-A baseball here, which resulted in the addition of the ballpark, one of our area’s crown jewels.”
Bower has led two NBA franchises during his career, currently being at the helm of the Detroit Pistons, and has been an NBA general manager for eight seasons. The Hollidaysburg native rebuilt the New Orleans Hornets as GM, including drafting star Chris Paul, and spent seven seasons as the Hornets’ GM in two stints.
Bower also served as the Hornets’ head coach in 2009-10, and was an assistant coach at Penn State and a head coach at Marist.
“We typically like the inductees to be retired and especially the athletes in order to make the Hall of Fame induction a final award,” Rudel said. “But administrators and coaches are a bit different in that they could continue for many years. There was strong sentiment for Jeff, who is in the midst of a terrific NBA career.”
Traditionally, the Hall has inducted just one team, but both the 1958 and 1966 Williamsburg boys basketball teams will be honored. The 1958 squad was the first team from Blair County to win a state title, bringing home gold after being runners-up the two years prior. That team launched an exceptional run for Williamsburg, which appeared in six state title games from 1956 through 1968, winning two.
The 1966 squad, the other Blue Pirates’ team to win gold, finished 25-0 and averaged an incredible 94 points per game before the 3-point era.
“Williamsburg produced the first two PIAA championship basketball teams in Blair County,” Rudel said. “The 1966 team was undefeated and averaged more than 90 points per game, but the 1958 team helped blaze the trail, so we thought it was an opportunity to recognize Williamsburg’s golden era by inducting both teams at the same time.”
Pittsburgh’s Stan Savran will return as banquet emcee, and the featured speaker, community service award winner and scholarship recipients will be announced when they are finalized.
Advance orders for tickets, priced at $75 ($750 for table of 10) before Dec. 31 and $85 ($850 for table) after that, are currently being accepted. Checks can be made payable to the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame, P.O. Box 162, Altoona, Pa. 16603. For more ticket information, call Kathy Millward at 381-8961.
Inquiries can be directed to [email protected].
Bower ascended the coaching and executive ranks throughout his basketball career, beginning at 22 as an assistant coach at Penn State (1983-86) and currently serves as the general manager of the Detroit Pistons, who hired him in 2014. In between, the 1979 Hollidaysburg Area High School graduate served stints as an assistant coach at Marist (1986-95), head coach of the New Orleans Hornets (2009-10) and head coach at Marist (2013-14), with time as an NBA executive sprinkled in, too. Bower served as an advance scout for the Charlotte Hornets in 1995-97 and as the Hornets’ director of scouting from 1997-2009. Bower was the Hornets’ general manager twice, from 2001-03 and from 2005-10, and drafted Chris Paul. Under his leadership, and the Hornets made the playoffs four times, and in 2005, after the Hornets won their first division title, Bower finished third in the NBA Executive of the Year voting in 2005 behind Danny Aigne and Mitch Kupchak. He and his wife, Lisa, have a daughter, Lindsey, born in 2003, and he graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in history and education from Saint Francis University, where he began his basketball career as a student assistant coach under Dave Magarity.
Geishauser excelled as a football player at West Virginia University, where he was a three-year letterman and two-plus year starter at cornerback under head coach Bobby Bowden. He broke into starting lineup late in sophomore season. His seven interceptions as a senior in 1972 ranked eighth in the country and still rank as the second-highest single-season total in WVU history. Geishauser landed tryouts with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins before a double hamstring injury ended his attempt at a professional career. During his three seasons of eligibility at WVU, the Mountaineers posted records of 8-3, 7-4 and 8-4 and played in the 1972 Peach Bowl. Among the teams West Virginia beat during Geishauser’s tenure were Pitt, Syracuse, Maryland, Boston College, Colorado State, Virginia, Temple, Tulane and East Carolina. In 1968, as a senior standout at Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic, Geishauser was one of eight Pennsylvanians named on Scholastic Magazine’s list of the top 100 high school players in the country; he earned all-state honors and played in the Big 33 game. His high school career was highlighted by a comeback win over DeMatha Catholic, one of BG’s best wins until its 2014 PIAA title. Geishauser selected the Mountaineers over dozens of other Division I offers. He has two sons, Cory and Bret, and currently resides in Altoona.
A five-time national champion in the biathlon, which combines running and rifle shooting, Hoover has made a name for himself in national and in international competitions. First named to the United States Summer Biathlon National Team in 1997, Hoover won USBA Summer Biathlon national championships in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Six years after being named to the national biathlon team, the 1990 Tyrone Area High School graduate qualified for his first world championship team, and Hoover has competed in three world championships. He was a USA flag bearer at the IBU World Championships in 2007 and was the USA team captain in 2009. His 15th-place finish in the sprint in Italy in 2003 represented his highest place finish internationally, and he also claimed another top-20 finish in the same event in Russia in 2009. Hoover won 92 of the 194 races he competed in during his career, retiring from competition in 2013. Hoover graduated from Penn State, earned as master’s degree from Saint Francis and enters his fourth season as the Red Flash women’s cross country and track & field coach. He also coached previously at Penn State Altoona and Juniata College. Among his proteges is Stephanie Blackstone Strittmatter of Everett, who is also a national champion.
JENNIFER (SHINGLER) HANSBERRY
Shingler enjoyed a decorated career playing basketball at the University of Pittsburgh, where she was a four-year starter, three-year co-captain and scored 1,081 points in her career. At the time she graduated, Shingler was just the sixth player in Pitt history to reach 1,000 points, and her point total is currently 15th all-time in school history. She was named to the Big East all-freshman team in 1987. The former Altoona Area High School standout also was a recipient of the Blue-Gold Award, which Pitt hands out annually to one male and one female student-athlete for a combination of athletics and academics. Shingler’s college coach, Kirk Bruce, called it the highest award any athlete at Pitt can receive, and earning the distinction enshrined Shingler’s name in the school’s “Walk of Fame.” Shingler also shined for Art Taneyhill’s Lady Lions. She was named a first-team all-state selection and co-captained (with Tracey Slogik) the undefeated 1986 PIAA Class AAAA champion team that finished 31-0 and was voted the No. 1 team in the country by USA Today. Altoona’s 1986 PIAA title was its first of four. As a senior, Shingler matched the AAHS single-season scoring record (504 points) and led the Lady Lions in scoring at 16 points per game. She resides in Pittsburgh with her husband (John) and three children, and is an attorney.
BOB AND JOAN LOZINAK
An original owner of the Altoona Curve with a longstanding vision to bring professional baseball to his hometown of Altoona, Bob and Joan Lozinak saw their dream become reality during the Curve’s inaugural season in 1999. Now in their 17th season, the Curve have become a popular fixture in the community, drawing more than 5 million fans during their existence. They’ve hosted two Eastern League All-Star games, two exhibition games with the Pittsburgh Pirates (their major league affiliate) and captured the Eastern League championship in 2010. Lozinak owned part of the franchise from 1999-2002 before reacquiring the Curve in 2008 and now runs the franchise with his wife, Joan, and three sons, Mike, David and Steve. Lozinak, who has also owned the Albuquerque Dukes and West Tenn Diamond Jaxx franchises, is among a handful of minor league baseball owners to have twice received the prestigious John H. Johnson Trophy, given annually to the top franchise in minor league baseball. Under his leadership, the Dukes won six Pacific Coast League championships. Lozinak forged close relationships with the Ripken family, notably Cal, and former major league manager Terry Collins during his time around the game. Lozinak, born in Altoona in 1937, graduated from Altoona High School and interrupted his education at Saint Francis College to spend five years in the Army before being honorably discharged as a first lieutenant. Joan graduated from Altoona Catholic in 1959 and remains active at her alma mater and in the community.
WILLIAMSBURG’S GOLDEN ERA OF BOYS BASKETBALL
The Hall of Fame is inducting Williamsburg’s two championship boys basketball teams — 1958 and ’66. The 1958 team was the first team from Blair County to win a state championship, beating Jenkintown 49-45 for the Pennsylvania Class C championship. The ’58 team played in the state title game three straight years, falling short in 1956 and by one point in ’57. It was led by Galen Hall and Eldin “Shorty” Lower. The team is considered to have blazed the trail for Williamsburg’s future success in both boys and girls basketball. From 1956 through ’68, Williamsburg not only won the two state titles but appeared in the state final six times. Hall is Williamsburg’s greatest all-around athlete, Florida’s former head football coach and an ex-Penn State and NFL quarterback who was enshrined in the Hall of Fame’s inaugural class (1987). Hall and Lower were both members of Altoona’s 1957 NABF national championship team. The ’58 team went 24-1 and was coached by Bill Casper, a Pittsburgh native and former Golden Gloves boxer. The other three starters were Ben Homsey, Ron Sollenberger and Larry Biddle. Other team members included: Tom Forshey, Roger Michelone, Ned Beaver, Timothy Eastep, Tim Kavel, Don Zeiders and Bill Graziano. Mike Hoffer was the assistant coach, and Jack Snyder and Sam Baughman were the managers. Casper’s last four teams at Williamsburg went 97-8. The ’66 team went a perfect 25-0, averaged 96 points per game and blew out Jim Thorpe in the PIAA Class C championship game, 89-55. It was coached by Dick Buckley, who was 207-44 during his Williamsburg tenure and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006. From 1963 through ’68, Williamsburg went 121-7, and a nucleus of the 1965-66 team was part of three straight unbeaten regular seasons (1964-67) and a 69-game regular-season win streak … The Blue Pirates’ top player was Bill Kagarise, a tremendous shooter who scored 843 points as a senior (second-most in Pennsylvania that year) without the benefit of a 3-point line. His 1,748 points were then second to Don Appleman’s 2100 among Blair County all-time scoring leaders. Kagarise went to Brevard (Fla.) Junior College and averaged 19 points per game and set a two-year school record with 1,134 points. After two years, Kagarise moved up to the Division I level and averaged 13 points per game at American University over two seasons. Aside from Kagarise, starters on Williamsburg’s 1966 team included Vince “Pepper” Appleman, Wayne Detwiler, Ken Aurandt and Dick Wilkinson. Other team members included Chris Detweiller, Bruce Houck, Rich Tate, Tom Frye and Jeff Appleman, who coached Williamsburg’s girls to the 1997 PIAA Class A title and has amassed more than 525 victories at Williamsburg and Claysburg-Kimmel. Jerry Campbell was the assistant coach on the ’66 team and Don Grannas and Ken Weimert were the managers.