SFU great Trosch dies at 75

One of the best basketball players in St. Francis history, Wilbur “Tree” Trosch, is being remembered this week by family and friends as a gentle giant off the court who had a great shooting touch on it.

Trosch died suddenly of a heart attack Monday after falling ill on a golf course in Indianapolis. He was 75.

Sources said Trosch had been scheduled for a doctor visit today concerning his heart.

“He was a great guy,” St. Francis basketball historian Bob Moore said. “One of the great storytellers. He could tell a million stories about St. Francis.”

Trosch played at St. Francis from 1957-60 and was part of what Moore called the school’s best all-around team, the 1958-59 squad that was the last Frankies club to appear in the prestigious NIT.

With the exception of the legendary Maurice Stokes, Moore said Trosch was the “best big man who played at St. Francis.”

“He was a different kind of big man,” Moore added.

Trosch was 6-foot-8 and 238 pounds, very big for that era, but he wasn’t a back-to-the-basket big man. He instead was more like a power forward who preferred to shoot from the outside.

“He had one of the best outside shots of any big guy I had seen in the college ranks at that time,” said former St. Francis star Don Appleman, who came after Trosch but used to watch him and the Frankies play at the Jaffa Mosque.

Trosch scored 1,361 points (18.6 per game) during his career, ranking 12th in program history. He’s also fourth in rebounds per game (12.0) and sixth in rebounding (875) and field-goal attempts (1,308).

“Tree had the softest touch on his shot for a big guy that you could imagine,” said Father Jack O’Malley, who played alongside Trosch at St. Francis and remained good friends throughout their lives.

Trosch’s St. Francis teams enjoyed great success, with a .740 winning percentage that remains the program’s highest for any three-year span since 1960.

“We used to say to each other regularly, we never went on the floor that we didn’t think we weren’t going to win. Ever,” O’Malley said. “We just had that attitude.”

Trosch was selected with the No. 13 overall pick in the 1960 NBA draft by the Syracuse Nationals, but he chose to start a family instead of playing pro ball. He coached briefly on the St. Francis staff under legendary coach Skip Hughes and later served as head coach at West Mifflin High School.

“Family guy, all about the children and grandchildren,” O’Malley said. “He was all about [his wife] Carmella and being a good friend and having an attitude of forgiveness. I learned a lot from him other than basketball.”

Trosch is a member of the St. Francis Athletics Hall of Fame and the school’s Golden Era Basketball Hall of Fame.

“I got to know him pretty well from coming back to St. Francis,” Appleman said. “He was a great guy, just a real good person and easy to get along with.”

Funeral services for Trosch will be held Friday in Indianapolis.