As the Saint Peter’s University basketball team prepares for its biggest game ever, friends of the program are mourning the sudden loss of one of its giants.
Elnardo Webster, who led the Peacocks to the 1968 NIT semifinals with a season that still ranks among the greatest in New Jersey collegiate history, died Tuesday. He was 74 years old.
“We just found out right before practice,” Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway said. “It’s awful. Elnardo was a great guy and has been great to me since I’ve been here, very supportive. Obviously he’s one of the all-time greats, not just as a basketball player, but a gentleman as well.”
Tom Mac Mahon, a former teammate, said Webster suffered from a heart ailment and went into hospice care in Morristown over the weekend.
Holloway said the team will do something to commemorate Webster for Friday’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game against Purdue.
“We have to try to figure out what we can do to honor him,” the coach said. “We want to do it the right way, not rushed, so we’ve got to sit down and try to figure that out. We’re definitely going to do something.”
He added, “Elnardo was Mr. Saint Peter’s with everything he did here. What people don’t understand about him is all he did off the court. He ran after-school programs and camps for inner-city kids. He’s going to be missed, for sure.”
That sentiment was echoed throughout the Saint Peter’s community.
“Tough time,” said Mac Mahon, a starting guard on the 1967-68 squad. “How ironic that the greatest player in Saint Peter’s history dies during the greatest basketball week in Saint Peter’s history?”
Mac Mahon and several members of the famed 1968 “Run Baby Run” squad, which went 24-4 and was considered to be the gold standard for Saint Peter’s basketball until now, are going to the Cinderella Peacocks’ showdown with Purdue in Philadelphia. Now it will be with heavy hearts.
The Jersey City native and Lincoln High School graduate averaged 24.8 points and 14.2 boards over two seasons with the Peacocks after transferring from the junior college level. As a 6-foot-5 junior forward in 1967-68, he averaged 25 points and 13 boards while shooting 58 percent from the field and 72 percent from the free-throw line.
In the 1968 NIT, at a time when that event was still a big deal, he racked up 51 points in a double-overtime win over Marshall and scored 29 in a romp of 10th-ranked Duke in the quarterfinals. He went on to play one season in the ABA.
“He was strong and physical, could shoot it, did everything,” Mac Mahon said.
Webster later became an educator and superintendent.
“He worked for 40 years helping inner-city kids,” Mac Mahon said. “He was renowned across the world for the after-school programs he created. He had wonderful life and did wonderful things. He will be remembered by all of us.”
Rachelle Paul, Saint Peter’s athletics director, said the school will honor his legacy in a significant way.
“On behalf of Saint Peter’s University athletics, I send my deepest condolences to Dr. Webster’s family,” she said in a text message. “Elnardo meant so much to our men’s basketball program as one of the stars on our storied 1967-68 ‘Run Baby Run’ team. we will always remember his indelible impact on Saint Peter’s University and the Jersey City community.”
Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and the college basketball beat since 2003. He is an Associated Press Top 25 voter. Contact him at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Saint Peter’s basketball: Elnardo Webster dies at 74