By Nick Curcuru
---- — When it comes to the best basketball player to ever play at Gloucester High School, the conversation begins and ends with one name; Don Patrican.
Last Sunday Patrican passed away at his Franklin Lakes, NJ home, but 50 years after graduating from Gloucester High School his legacy is still living strong.
“If your are talking about Gloucester High School basketball, Don is what Ted Williams is to the Red Sox,” said Gloucester cross country coach Dave Dunsky, a fellow classmate and GHS Hall of Famer who saw all of Patrican’s games as the team’s score keeper. “There was nobody like him - before him or after him.”
During Patrican’s time with the team, from the late 1950’s until he graduated in 1961, Gloucester basketball was the hottest ticket in town as the fans would pack in to the old Gloucester High gymnasium to see the 6’7” Patrican go to work.
While his 6’7” frame was physically imposing, Patrican had the finesse to go with the power. He had a strong presence in the post and on the boards, but what Patrican was most known for was his high arching jump shot.
“It was beautiful to watch,” Dunsky said.
By the time his career at Gloucester High School was through, Patrican set a school record with 1,731 career points, a record that still stands. In fact, no player has come within 400 points of Patrican’s career mark. To put into perspective just how dominant Patrican was, a player would need to score 21.63 points per game over four years, 20 games per year, to match his scoring mark. Patrican averaged just under 27 points per game in his high school career.
Patrican led the Fishermen to the Tech Tournament in 1961, with a 13-3 record in the regular season, tied for the Essex County League Title with Beverly. The Essex County League no longer exists but the league consisted of Gloucester, Beverly, Peabody, Lynn English, Lynn Classical, Salem, Haverhill, Lawrence and Saugus. Team’s had to win 70% of their games in 1961 as opposed to 50% presently.
Gloucester drew New Bedford in the opening round of the tournament, which was played at the Boston Garden, and dropped a close one 62-59. New Bedford would go on to win the championship.
His numbers are certainly gaudy at face value, but considering the fact that Gloucester played a 16 game regular season in those days (compared to 20-22 games presently) and that the three point line had yet to exist, Patrican’s numbers become remarkable.
During his senior campaign the center averaged 35.7 points per game, the most in Eastern Mass. and good enough to earn him All American honors. If the three point line had existed back then, Patrican surely would have flirted with 40 points per game given his outside shooting skill.
“He would have been precariously close to 40 points per game,” Dunsky said. “It wasn’t all layups with him, he was a great outside shooter and I’m sure plenty of his shots would have been behind the three point line.”
From Gloucester High, Patrican went on to Wake Forest University before transferring to the University of Miami after his freshman season. At Miami Patrican was a three year starter along side NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry. With Patrican in the starting lineup, Miami was ranked in the top 10 in the country.
After college Patrican moved to New Jersey, where he was the Executive Vice President at Maxwell Corporation of America.
Patrican’s legacy at Gloucester High School is enshrined in the school’s Hall of Fame, as he was a member of the school’s inaugural Hall of Fame class. His name also sits fittingly atop the school’s 1,000 point banner, which hangs in the Benjamin A. Smith Fieldhouse.
It took 24 years for another Gloucester basketball player to reach 1,000 points, it has been 52 years and still nobody has even flirted with his scoring record.