STAMFORD, Conn. The Fairfield County Sports Hall of Fame Thursday has named six prominent sports figures to its new class of inductees. The Hall of Fame, which is overseen by the Fairfield County Sports Commission, Inc., will induct the new members at its seventh annual Sports Night awards dinner Monday, Oct. 17, at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich. With the six new inductees, the Hall of Fame has now recognized 45 county sports legends.
Two Hall of Famers were selected in each of the three wings: Jackie Robinson Professional, James O'Rourke Amateur and J. Walter Kennedy Community Service. In the professional category, the new inductees are John Bagley of Bridgeport and Bennett Salvatore of Stamford. The amateur wing selections are Joe DeSantis of Fairfield and Ceci Hopp St. Geme of Greenwich. Community service winners are Charlie Bentley of Bridgeport and the late Albie Loeffler of Westport.
This is the first time in the Hall of Fame's history that there have been four inductees in one sport, in this case, basketball.
Bagley played 11 seasons in the NBA, the first five with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who made him their first draft pick and the 12th overall in 1982. When the 6-foot point guard was traded to the New Jersey Nets in 1987, he left as the Cavs' all-time and single season assist leader, as well as averaging a team record 9.4 assists in 1985-86. The Harding High great played two seasons with the Nets, averaging a career-high 12.0 points per game in his first year, and then spent three years with the Boston Celtics before ending his career in Atlanta in 1993
Heading into his 30th year as an NBA referee, Salvatore is one of the premier officials in pro basketball. He has worked 25 NBA Finals games, 228 playoff games and over 1,650 regular season games. The Stamford Catholic graduate began his NBA officiating career in 1981, after spending two years working in the CBA and 10 years of high school basketball. Salvatore has two All-Star game credits (1993 and 2002) on his resume, and worked international tournaments for the NBA in Germany ('93), Mexico ('97) and China ('04).
DeSantis was one of Fairfield University's all-time great basketball players. A four-year letterman from 197579, he completed his collegiate career with 1,916 points, then the school's all-time leading scorer and now currently second. He averaged 18.4 points per game for his career and his 667 assists are also second on the Stags' career list. DeSantis tops the Stags' record book for career free-throw percentage at .849. In the 1977-78 season, DeSantis led the Stags to one of their best seasons ever with a 22-5 record and an NIT appearance. He was drafted by the Washington Bullets in the second round of the 1979 NBA Draft before playing in Venice, Italy, for one season.
One of the best female distance runners in U.S. history, Hopp St. Geme has been a top-level competitor for more than 30 years. She made her name as a scholastic star at Greenwich High, winning the National Cross Country championship in 1980 and following up with a National title in the 3,000 meter run as a senior. She still owns four FCIAC outdoor records and two state milestones. Hopp St. Geme, who graced the cover of Runner's World magazine seven times, remains one of the top female masters runners and is active in 5K runs. She has been the assistant cross country and track coach for the past nine years at Corona del Mar High in Newport Beach, Calif.
Loeffler was the legendary soccer coach at Staples High, but his impact on soccer there and across the country extended beyond his role as a coach. Loeffler came to Staples in 1952 and originally coached basketball (12 years), baseball (11 years) and track because the Westport school did not have a soccer team. He founded the program in 1958 and shaped it over his 20 years as head coach into one of the nation's finest. When he retired in 1978, he had amassed a then national high school record 314 wins and was twice named National Soccer Coach of the Year. Staples won 13 FCIAC titles, including five in a row, and seven state championships with five of those coming consecutively from 1969-73.
For 33 years, Bentley has been the head coach of one of the country's top high school basketball programs at Harding High, where he coached 2011 Hall of Fame inductee John Bagley. During his tenure the Presidents have made 14 state title game appearances, winning nine championships, including five straight from 1983-87.
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