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New author ranks state's best high school hoops stars

| Friday, Aug. 13, 2010


One of the more popular endeavors of the past decade is putting out lists.

Lists of all sorts started coming out, particularly in 1999 when various lists were published outlining the greatest athletes of the 20th Century, the greatest inventions of the 20th century, and so on.

David Letterman does a top 10 list of various topics nightly.

Now, it's time to get ready for a very intriguing list: The top 150 players in Pennsylvania high school basketball history.

Mark Hostutler of suburban Philadelphia soon will be publishing Heads of State: Pennsylvania's Greatest High School Basketball Players of the Modern Era.

Among the top 150 are several local athletes.

Hostutler follows up the list of 150 with 75 more that didn't make the cut; then he adds 275 honorable mentions to complete an overall list of the 500 top players in state annals. The book is due out on the shelves in late September or early October.

"My passion is high school basketball and I grew up in a basketball-obsessed area," said Hostutler, a reserve on some of the great Coatesville Area High School teams of the late 1990s.

Added Hostutler: "Doing this has always been in the back of my mind. Pennsylvania has such a rich tradition."

Hostutler considers the modern era to be from about 1950 to the present. Before 1938, each basket was followed by a center jump and scoring statistics are difficult to compare to the modern era.

While many in the book went on to greatness in college and the pros, Hostutler's main criteria is what the person did in high school.

For instance, No. 1 on the hit parade is Carlisle's Billy Owens, who played on four straight PIAA championship teams.

"I explained the parameters in the forward," Hostutler said. "The ultimate is winning a state championship. I used college and the pros as a tiebreaker."

Local flavor

Not surprisingly, some of the top 150 players are from the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Hostutler has segments on Valley's B.B. Flenory, Tommy Pipkins, Bill Varner and Dick DeVenzio, who attended Springdale in his sophomore and junior seasons before moving to Ambridge.

"B.B. gave me some great stories," Hostutler said. "There's the one about how he scored 81 points in a junior high game, but didn't start the game because he didn't wear a necktie to school that day."

Flenory, one of just 13 Pennsylvanians ever chosen to the Parade All-American team, recalls how he was being recruited by a private high school in California. He recalled being wooed by none other than Bob Hope when he traveled to the Golden State.

Hostutler encountered problems getting information from Philadelphia experts, who thought more players from the City of Brotherly Love should have been in the top 150. But to Hostutler's credit, he canvassed the entire Commonwealth searching for a genuine top 150.

Other Western Pennsylvanians include Norn Van Lier and Simmie Hill of Midland, Don Hennon of Wampum and Schenley greats Kenny Durrett and Maurice Lucas.

It's the first literary endeavor for Hostutler, an English teacher in the West Chester School District.

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