John Hegwood

Former Roosevelt and University of San Francisco basketball and baseball star John Hegwood

PROVIDED

Like many who have grown up in and left Gary, John Hegwood will never forget his hometown or his roots.

The former Roosevelt and University of San Francisco basketball and baseball star knows basketball is a tough sell in hockey country, but he is succeeding teaching the game in Canada as the director of the Calgary Youth Development Centre in Calgary, Alberta.

"I'd say soccer might be the most popular in terms of the numbers, but hockey is it up here," Hegwood said. "What I tell them is how basketball was the game where I grew up."

Hegwood's program has several teams at different levels, and he likens it to the John Will Anderson Club in Gary, where he played as a youth. The CYDC logo bears a panther and for good reason.

"Roosevelt and I preach to these kids like my coaches at the 'Velt preached to me," Hegwood said. "I am so proud of Gary, Roosevelt and the community. I think it is a good community with plenty of great people."

Hegwood said is looking forward to returning home and conducting basketball clinics "for the young students athletes of the great City of Gary."

Hegwood even joked about landing in "Calgary."

"It has 'Gary' in it," he said. "I guess 'Cal' for Calumet."

He said he had to change the basketball culture in hockey country.

"It wasn't like back home where the gyms were packed," Hegwood said. "Not many people in the bleachers and sometimes, not every parent came to the games.

"They would practice a few times a week and I had to change that to every day. I could not imagine Coach (Ron) Heflin practicing once a week at Roosevelt."

Hegwood said his coaches -- Heflin, Ronald Broome and Benny Dorsey as well as John Hall at the John Will Anderson Club -- had a big influence on him. He did not play at Roosevelt as a freshman because of grades.

"I needed to get my act together," Hegwood said. "I tell the kids about that here in Calgary -- grades and school. One of the biggest changes was when Coach Roosevelt Pulliam grabbed me and said, 'You better get it together. You got talent, but you got to want it.' That hit me and that's when I realized I had to be serious about school and sports."

The 6-foot-5 Hegwood starred for Heflin's Panthers and was not only all-Northwest Conference, but all-state and a prep All-American. He was an NJCAA All-American and hall of famer at San Francisco City College before a stellar career at then-power University of San Francisco. He was also on the West Coast Athletic Conference first team in 1981, honorable mention in 1982, and was a teammate of Emerson star Wallace Bryant.

"Coming from a tradition like Roosevelt to playing at Memorial Gymnasium in San Francisco, where Bill Russell, K.C. Jones played, that was something," Hegwood said. "It was a great time."

As a two-sport athlete, Hegwood also played baseball for the Dons. He was drafted by both the San Diego Clippers and the Toronto Blue Jays, but chose the Clippers and the NBA. He decided to play overseas in South America for eight years. He also played for the Calgary 88s of the World Basketball League.

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Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.