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Lambour raced to inclusion:

Of the countless Division I athletes Blair County has produced over the years, Tim Lambour’s experience was perhaps the most unique when it came to racial relations.

Lambour was a basketball standout at Bishop Guilfoyle, helping lead the 1970 Marauders to the Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association title, and he earned a scholarship to Georgetown.

Two years into Lambour’s tenure with the Hoyas, the coach who recruited him, Jack McKee, was fired, and John Thompson arrived in 1972.

Thompson went on to become a legend — recruiting Patrick Ewing and guiding Georgetown to a national championship on his way to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

His passing Aug. 30 struck Lambour, who started two years under Thompson and maintained close ties with the school.

During this time of social unrest and an unfortunate racial divide, Lambour reflected on his days at Georgetown, what it was like then, and his deep appreciation for Thompson.

When people he meets learn he played basketball at Georgetown, albeit nearly 50 years ago, Lambour finds himself standing up for his program that was accused of only recruiting Black players.

“I always defended it, and the way I described it is you have the ability to recruit great players — whether it’s white or Black,” he said from his home in New Jersey, where he does webinars as a financial educator. “Everyone would say he only recruits Black ballplayers. I said, ‘You want the program to succeed and he’s doing it his way and because it doesn’t fit your eye,'” people holding those prejudices should look within.

“It really opened me to understanding,” Lambour, 68, said.

On the playgrounds of Altoona, he competed against Billy Moore and Randy Allen, but playing at BG, Lambour said he never had a Black teammate until he got to Georgetown.

And even then, it took awhile. He averaged 5.3 points per game as a sophomore in 1971-72, but McKee’s team went 3-23, and Georgetown brought in Thompson, who literally changed the face of the university.

When Lambour arrived, he said, “Georgetown had barely any Black ballplayers. There might have been two in the history of Georgetown basketball prior to my class, and then there were three in my class. They wanted to have a closer relationship with the Washington community. We were in the Georgetown section of the city; it was predominantly white. It was the midst of what was going on with the Vietnam War and the whole aspect of wanting to try and help the black DC community and bridging that gap” was a priority.

After his playing career ended as Bill Russell’s backup with the Boston Celtics (1964-66), Thompson coached St. Anthony’s in DC. He brought three of his players to the Hoyas, but one wasn’t a point guard, and Lambour remained the starter for his last two years.

He averaged 5.7 points as a junior and 3.3 as a senior when the Hoyas went .500 and remains one of the Hoyas’ career leaders in assists.

“The one thing I’ve always been thankful for was I got the opportunity to compete for a position and starting two years,” Lambour said.

As for perceptions of racism, Lambour said, “He was misunderstood. He stood up for things socially and for athletics. He was very competitive, but he would congratulate the other team and didn’t blame” his players or the officials in defeat.

He would also make sure his players were present in class.

“He stressed academic accountability,” he said. “He took a strong interest in that and he didn’t think of that as giving a Black kid an opportunity. It was more after basketball, and a lot of guys went on to become coaches, teachers. There was no sports dormitory. You were part of the student body, and he encouraged you to be involved.”

Lambour stayed connected, initially being part of a grass-roots effort that raised funds for the athletic department, which morphed into academic scholarships.

“We went from raising $10,000 per year, and having a newsletter and a lapel pin to now raising more than an million a year,” he said.

When the university had a 50-year anniversary of the basketball program, Lambour attended, and he’s waiting for plans on Thompson’s memorial service.

“He used to bring in his Celtics players and coaches to practices. They came to games … Sam Jones, Red Auerbach. I met Bill Russell,” Lambour said. “My memories of Thompson were always very positive.”

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

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