Hank Nowak

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Canisius College Baskeball Player

In September of 1953, Henry J. Nowak enrolled at Canisius College after a sensational basketball career at Riverside High School. His goal at the time was to study accounting and play varsity ball for the Golden Griffs. In his first year, Nowak led the freshman team in scoring, averaging 19 points a game. In his sophomore year, “Hammerin Hank” stepped right into varsity play and averaged 16 points a game. As a junior he pushed his average to 18 points a game, and as a senior he netted 20 points a game. When he graduated in 1957, he was Canisius College’s all-time scoring leader. In three years as a starter he scored 1,449 points and averaged 18.6 points a game. Today, he still ranks first in rebounding and third in all-time scoring.

Sportswriters dubbed him “Hammerin Hank” for his tough aggressive play. He always played hard and was never shy about banging the boards for rebounds. He was also a great team leader, a Larry Bird type of player who was always eager to take the clutch shot in a tight game. Nowak led the Griffs to their only three appearances in the NCAA basketball tournament, averaging 19.4 points in nine tourney games. Throughout his career, Nowak always maintained the proper perspective. He always had time for sportswriters for fans, especially youngsters looking for an autograph. After graduation from the UB Law School, he served as an assistant district attorney and as Erie County Comptroller from 1966 to 1974. In 1974 he was elected to Congress where he represented Western New York for 18 years on a number of key committees. As a congressman, his achievements include obtaining federal aid for a wide range of important projects that have proved beneficial to the people of Western New York.

At a 1994 press conference announcing tonight’s inductees, Nowak spoke briefly about the role of sports in society. “It is an important fabric that helps knit communities together,” he said, “and it teaches people character, discipline, co-operation, and sportsmanship.” Henry Nowak, basketball star, team leader, congressman and community benefactor, is living proof of it.