ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. – The St. Bonaventure University Athletics Department unveiled the Stith Brothers mural in the Reilly Center on Saturday, honoring what has been called the greatest brother act in college basketball history.
Created by ZE Design of Centerville, Ohio, the 7-foot by 10-foot mural of Tom ’61 and Sam ’60 features photos of each player, along with a narrative detailing the brothers’ journey from Brooklyn to Bonaventure and beyond. A list of contributors to the commemorative project flanks both Tom and Sam’s respective accolades.
“On behalf of my family – this is very moving as you can understand – but I want to thank Steve (Watson), Sr. Margaret (Carney) – for keeping the memory alive of the big fellow (Tom) and me – and my classmates,” Sam said in his opening statement. “This (mural) represents the guys that we played with. Tom would always appreciate that our teammates were part of our success – we just stood out a little bit more because we were well trained in the game of basketball.”
Several members of the Stith family were on hand to watch the unveiling, including Tom’s widow, Gladys. Sam was the first African-American player ever at Bona’s, and Tom followed him to the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains a year after. Tom, who was the program’s first-ever consensus All-American, passed away on June 13, 2010.
The brothers helped lift St. Bonaventure to national prominence with three appearances in the NIT and another in the NCAA Championship over a four-year span.
The 1959-60 season saw Tom and Sam average a combined 52 points per game en route to leading the Brown and White to a 21-5 record, including 18 straight wins, and a fourth-place finish in the NIT. Tom accounted for 31.5 points per game, a figure that still reigns supreme in the program’s single-season record books, and Sam added 20.5 points per outing.
In the NIT, Tom averaged 28.5 points, never scoring below 25 points in each of the four contests. Following the magical season, Tom earned the first of his back-to-back All-American honors from the Associated Press.
Sam was a complete player who scored 1,112 points and grabbed 620 rebounds in just three years. Tom scored a remarkable 2,052 points over just 76 games for 27 points per contest. Tom graduated as the program’s all-time leading scorer, but now sits fourth all-time, and is just one of two players to score more than 2,000 points over just three seasons.
Following graduation, Tom was drafted by his hometown New York Knicks. Sam also went on to play professionally for the Cincinnati Royals and New York Knicks.
Sam and Tom were both inducted into St. Bonaventure’s Athletics inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1969, and Tom’s number 42 and Sam’s number 22 are retired and hang from the Reilly Center rafters.