Award created to honor Stokes, Twyman

Tonight, the NBA will announce the creation of a new annual award in honor of the storied friendship of Basketball Hall of Famers Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes, who played for St. Francis.

The announcement will be televised live on NBA TV at 7 p.m. from Miami. The inaugural winner of the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award will be announced at the press conference as well.

Twyman and Stokes were friends and teammates on the Rochester/Cincinnati Royals from 1955 to 1958. In the last game of the 1957-58 regular season, Stokes suffered an on-court injury that led to him falling into a coma days later, leaving him permanently paralyzed.

Diagnosed with post-traumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury that damaged his motor-control center, Stokes was supported for the rest of his life by Twyman, who became his legal guardian and advocate.

Twyman helped organize the NBA’s Maurice Stokes Memorial Basketball game, held at Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club in Monticello, N.Y., which raised funds for Stokes’s medical care and, following his death in 1970 at age 36, for other players in need. In 2004, after years of lobbying by Twyman, Stokes was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Twyman, who was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1983, died in 2012.

A Pittsburgh native, Stokes was one of the first African-American players to star at the collegiate and professional levels. At 6-7, 250 pounds, he possessed the talent and athleticism to play every position on the court. He led St. Francis College to the Final Four of the 1955 National Invitation Tournament before embarking on his NBA career. The second overall selection of the 1955 NBA Draft by the Rochester Kings, Stokes won the 1955-56 Rookie of the Year Award and earned All-Star berths in each of his three NBA campaigns before suffering his career-ending injury.

A biography exploring Stokes’ life and his relationship with Twyman will be released later this year. The book, titled “The Rise and Fall and Rise of Maurice Stokes,” will be published by St. Johann Press in Haworth, N.J. It is written by Pat Farabaugh, an assistant professor in St. Francis University’s communications department. Farabaugh served as the sports information director at St. Francis from 1999 to 2005.