PORTAGE - Statistics and accolades might quantify what Len Chappell meant to the Portage Area basketball program. But they only tell part of the story.
Chappell represents a classic example of a small-town boy who found his way into big-time collegiate and professional basketball, and left a legacy and an example for future generations to emulate.
"He is a shining star," Ralph Cecere, Portage high school principal said Friday after ceremonies that honored the school's eight 1,000-point scorers. The ceremonies preceded the Mustangs' regular-season finale against Ferndale.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Former Portage basketball great Len Chappell watches Friday’s game at the gymnasium named after him.
Chappell, for one, enjoyed the appreciation shown by community members at the school's auditorium. When he was presented by retired superintendent Dr. Andy Kittell, Chappell received a warm standing ovation.
"It's a great community. It's always great to get back here," Chappell said.
Chappell, a 6-foot-8 center, amassed 2,240 points in his three-year varsity career (1955-58) at Portage. He did this long before the PIAA adopted the 3-point field goal in 1987.
The power forward led the Mustangs to an 18-0 regular-season record in 1957 and made first-team all-state in 1958.
Chappell, 71, went on to enjoy an All-American career at Wake Forest, earning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year honors on two occasions.
He then spent nine seasons in the National Basketball Association before finishing his career in 1972 with the American Basketball Association Dallas Chaparrals (now San Antonio Spurs). Upon retirement he became president and owner of Chappell Sports, a corporate and promotional apparel company in New Berlin, Wis.
The school's 1,000-point club members have combined to score a total of 10,416 points in careers that have spanned decades and generations.
"Ten thousand, four hundred and sixteen: It's a special number," current Portage coach Travis Kargo said. "Ten thousand, four hundred and sixteen points [were] accumulated by eight individual players. They could not have been accomplished without their great teammates and our coaches. And to these teammates and coaches we say, 'Thank you.'''
"This history is not just about the last 10 or 20 years. It's about the last 67 years," said Richard Bernazzoli, Portage superintendent of schools. "And the amazing thing about our town is that all of this transcends sports. It's all about the family. When you see these things happen, it does your heart so good."
Dave McCabe, assistant basketball coach at Portage, assembled the program.
"This is something that needed to be done," said McCabe, who contacted Chappell first about the idea several months ago. "As soon as he committed, the ball got bigger and bigger and bigger."
"It was a good program," Chappell said. "It was well thought out."
Of the remaining seven members of the 1,000-point club, three - Brian Shope, Randy Spaid and Sean Cronauer - were coached by Kargo.
Ranking third on the list: None other than Kargo.
Each of the 1,000-point scorers attended except Ron Swanson, who could not make the trip from Florida. Swanson scored 1,018 points in a three-year career that spanned the mid-1960s.
"Whatever they have done they're going to continue to represent Portage in a most positive way," Cecere said.
Portage knocked off Ferndale, 50-36, in a Western Pennsylvania Athletic Conference game at the gymnasium that bears Chappell's name. Jesse Kreutzberger led the Mustangs with 15 points, followed by Troy Scoran and Michael Bryja with 10 apiece. Chad Eisenhuth scored 12 points to lead the Yellow Jackets.
Ferndale (36): Gates 2 0-0 6, Eisenhuth 5 1-4 12, Mason 1 0-0 2, Harrison 1 0-0 2, DeBarto 2 2-2 7, Sajatovich 1 0-0 3, Hileman 0 1-2 1, Kinsey 1 1-2 3. Totals: 13 5-14 36.
Portage (50): J.Bryja 4 1-2 9, Kreutzberger 7 0-1 15, Scoran 3 3-6 10, Corrente 0 0-0 0, Brown 2 0-0 4, M.Bryja 3 1-2 10, Randal 1 0-0 2. Totals: 20 5-11 50.
Ferndale8 13 7 8 - 36
Portage7 10 19 14 - 50
3-point goals: Ferndale 5 (Gates 2, Eisenhuth, DeBarto, Sajatovich), Portage 5 (M. Bryja, Kreutzberger, Scoran).
Records: Ferndale (3-18), Portage (9-13).
Officials: Mike Felus, Bill Zamboni, Mike McDermott.
JV: No game.