POTSDAM — Tom Hutchinson will become the 36th men’s basketball player to be inducted into the 130-member SUNY Potsdam Sports Hall of Fame.
The ceremony will take place this Saturday at the Knowles Conference Center on campus at 11:30 a.m.
Hutchinson ‘77 will be joined by Bears alumni Jodi Ziemba ‘05 (women’s soccer) and Ryan Hanretty ‘05 (men’s lacrosse) as inductees into the Class of 2014.
Nicknamed “Hutch”, Tom Hutchinson was the kind of basketball player that you would love to have as a teammate and loathed to go up against as an opponent.
Crushing an opponents’ team spirit with the offensive rebound as his specialty, Hutchinson thrived as a rebounding and defensive force for legendary coach Jerry Welsh and the SUNY Potsdam men’s basketball teams through the early to mid 1970’s.
“I’m always been about offensive rebounds” said Hutchinson, over a phone interview from his home in Goodyear, Ariz., a state he’s called home since 1980.
“If you want shots, you’ve got to get a rebound. I always looked to improve my technique and made sure to block out. My thinking was that if I didn’t rebound then I wouldn’t be playing. Other guys could score, but what the team needed was rebounding so I figured that I better do it. I focused so much of my game on doing that well. I tracked the ball. I was only an average jumper so it was mainly about technique. But my mind set was that every one was going to be mine. I needed to get every rebound that I possibly could.”
It was that innate desire that pushed Hutchinson to succeed.
In his Potsdam career, he would play in 107 career games, score 637 points (6.0 per game), rack up 819 rebounds (7.7 per game) and record 253 assists. He ranks third in program history in rebounding and fifth in rebounding average.
Among his career accomplishments included being a three-year captain, helping the Bears make two NCAA Tournament appearances (1972-73, 1973-74), and pushing Potsdam to becoming the SUNYAC co-champions (1973-74, 1976-77).
Hutchinson put together one of his more impressive games when it mattered most-in the ECAC Championship game, he totaled 16 points, six rebounds and five assists against top-seeded Hamilton College.
For that, Hutchinson will join 35 other Bears basketball players in the Hall of Fame on Saturday.
“I felt extremely fortunate from start to finish,” Hutchinson said. “The starting piece was being recruited and knowing that I was going to a good program. I felt really lucky to fit into the program given my size and skills.”
Hutchinson grew up Camillus and played for St. Patrick’s High School in Syracuse.
He packed as much practice as he could into street ball pick up games and the playgrounds against some of the more talented players from the area who played on high school and collegiate teams.
Long and lankly at 6-foot-2 and 150 pounds in high school, he would often guard taller opponents.
Before the days of AAU ball, you had to defend your playground court by winning to stay on and play another.
Hutchinson remembers those days as being a great learning experience that toughened him up and helped mold him into an overall improved player.
“The street ball and playground ball was very strong,” Hutchinson said.
“There were folks who went to some of the top programs like West Genesee, North Syracuse, Liverpool and the Catholic High Schools like Christian Brothers Academy and then there were college players from Siena, Lemoyne, and Syracuse that would show up to play. I would also play in scrimmages against teams from the CNY League. There was no AAU back then so anybody who was anybody played in this type of league.”
For Hutchinson, he was a 10-mile ride away from Syracuse. So within that radius, he could find a competitive game on most days.
Once Hutchinson joined the Bears, he picked up what he called a “fairly intense” training regiment from SUNY Potsdam Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Welsh.
“Jerry put in place a lot of complex defenses,” Hutchinson said. “Full court. Half-quarter press. Man to man. Zone. Coach would change the defense throughout the course of the game, which you don’t see a ton of nowadays. You had to be on the same page. There was a lot of communication and adjustments made to the talent on the floor. By my third year, we were pretty methodical. Coach knew how to coach to our talent.”
When Hutch was played at the forward positions, he was able to use his height to his advantage. Occasionally, he did play some center and had to rely on fundamentals, quickness, long arms and his feet to try to front bigger opponents.
It will be nearly 11 years since Hutchinson last visited Potsdam. That came in 2003 when he was here to honor Welsh, whom the basketball court was being dedicated in his name to on that day.
“I’m so grateful for being recognized,” Hutchinson said. “My scoring numbers weren’t particularly overwhelming. But, if you think about a team game, I was definitely a strong teammate. I did all the intangibles like making sure to hustle and grab rebounds. That was a positive testimony to Potsdam. To say, hey this is a team name, and I’m going to do whatever I need to do to make us successful.”