Brooklyn Boro

John Conforti’s record going on 52 years

November 29, 2021 Andy Furman
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It will be 52 years to the day.

On January 10, 1970 John Conforti made 20 field goals and scored 45 points against Wagner College.

Both records still remain at St. Francis College.

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Perhaps classes should be cancelled Monday, January 10, 2022. 

Terrier basketball fans haven’t had much to celebrate recently. In fact, St. Francis has had only one winning season (17-16) in the last six years – that was in 2018-19.

And just two winners in the past nine campaigns.

Perhaps Terrier fans need to celebrate what John Conforti accomplished in three varsity seasons (67-70) at St. Francis College.

The Xaverian High School graduate (’66) finished his career with 1,434 points, finishing  as the all-time number two scorer at that time.

“Basketball was something I really picked up late in life,” he told the Eagle. “I played baseball and was pretty good.”

So good, in fact he was offered a contract to sign with the Kansas City Athletics. “I played shortstop,” he said. “But I knew if I signed and took the money, I’d lose my amateur status and couldn’t play basketball.

“So, I said ‘no’,” he said. “I gave up baseball and followed basketball.”

But that wasn’t so easy.

“I was cut from the freshman team at Xaverian,” he said. “And when one kid failed off the team, my teammate Lou Dotrina – who later played with me at St. Francis College – went and pushed the coach to let me on the team.”

Well almost.

Conforti was the 11th or 12th man on the ballclub and remembers sitting atop of the bleachers during practice; just hoping to break a sweat and play.

All that watching in practice must have been a true learning experience, because as a senior at Xaverian, John Conforti was the leading scorer in New York City at 27 points-per-game.

He still holds Xaverian’s scoring records for average and points-per-game. In fact, only three jerseys have been retired by Xaverian in basketball – Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, three-time all-Ivy League selection from Yale, Steve Leondis and John Conforti.

“I said yes to St. Francis,” he said, “because my dad was sick and didn’t want to go away from the city.

“I lived in Bay Ridge, right near Xaverian,” he said.

Manhattan College was interested, he recalled, but they wanted him to play both baseball and basketball.

“Tulane showed some interest as well,” he said.

St. Francis was the perfect match for John Conforti.

Retired basketball jerseys at Xaverian high School. From left: John Conforti, Chris Mullin and Steve Leondis. Photo courtesy of Andy Furman

He led the team in scoring in the 68-69 season with 560 points in 23 games for a 24.3 per-game average. His average broke the school record of 22.8 set by Hall of Famer Gil Radday (66-67).

The 560 points broke the school record for points in a season set by Hall of Famer Vernon Stokes (‘53) and Hall of Famer Hank Daubenschmidt (‘54) with 506 points.

The three-year starter served as captain in 69-70 and was twice named to the All-Metropolitan Team.

“He was signed by the Nets as a free agent,” said his life-long friend, and former St. Francis College baseball coach, Dan Lynch, Jr. “He dominated the workouts. They were closed to the public but Coach (Lou) Carnesecca let me stay.

“Coach Lou told me he wanted to keep John, but was overruled by the General Manager. They had 14 no-cut contracts,” Lynch said.

One drill comes to mind, recalled Lynch, whose dad Dan, the all-time winningest basketball coach in St. Francis College history.

“One-on-one, full court,” he said. “Each player was on offense three times. John was matched with Ollie Taylor (DeWitt Clinton High and University of Houston). John humiliated him. Scored on him three times, stole the ball when Taylor had the ball all three times.”

It wasn’t the first time Carnesecca wanted the kid from Bay Ridge.

“He saw me in a high school game,” Conforti said, “when he was scouting Bernard Rencher from Mater Christi. Bernard went to Notre Dame and then returned to St. John’s with Carnesecca.”

And another coach who had second thoughts – Wagner’s Chester Sellitto.

After Conforti torched his Seahawks for 45 points in the 69th Rgt. Armory it was Sellitto who admitted he made a mistake by not taking the Xaverian grad.

Conforti was always comfortable in Brooklyn. He owned and operated Tuscany Grill, 8620 3rd Ave., until he sold it three years ago.

He’s a member of the St. Francis College Hall of Fame, yet he says the most recognition he ever received was in the Buffalo (NY) Memorial Auditorium.

“We were playing Niagara, and they had all-American Calvin Murphy,” he said. “I stole the ball from him and all I remember was 12,000 people booing me.”

Today the ball still goes through the hoop when he shoots it.

“But I have to ask a kid to pick the ball up for me – I’ve got a bad back,” he said.

The Terriers host Wagner College, Saturday, January 15th. John Conforti needs to be recognized that day.

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR

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