Angelo “Hank” Luisetti, the three-time All-American from Stanford who revolutionized basketball by popularizing the running one-handed shot, has died. He was 86.
Luisetti died Tuesday in San Mateo, said his companion, Nancy Gommeringer. He had been ill with an unknown ailment for four months, she said.
The 6-foot-2 forward changed the sport when he introduced his running one-handed shot to Madison Square Garden during a Dec. 30, 1936, game against Long Island University.
Stanford ended Long Island’s 43-game winning streak -- and Luisetti brought the beginning of the end for a game defined by the traditional two-handed set shot.
“He has to be considered one of the innovators of the modern game of basketball,” Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said Saturday.
Montgomery said he first heard of Luisetti when he was 10. His father, who had played against Luisetti in college, told him that Luisetti was the “greatest player ever to play the game.”
Other West Coast players had worked on the one-handed shot, but Luisetti honed it best in competition.
He learned his skills on the playgrounds of San Francisco, developing the then-unusual one-handed style to hoist the ball over taller players. “Shooting two-handed, I just couldn’t reach the basket,” Luisetti once said. “I’d get the ball, take a dribble or two, and jump and shoot on the way up.
“I didn’t jump and shoot at the height of my jump, the way they do now,” he said. “I’d let the ball go right near my face. I’d push and shoot, off my fingertips.”
Luisetti was a three-time first-team All-American selection at Stanford, from 1936 through 1938. He was named the Helms Athletic Foundation Player of the Year in 1937 and 1938. Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959, he was selected for the inaugural Pac-10 Hall of Honor in March 2001.
He also became the first college player to score 50 points in a game, when Stanford beat Duquesne 92-27 on New Year’s Day 1938. That single-game scoring record still stands at Stanford.
His teammate, Phillip Zonne, remembered that game Saturday in an interview with Associated Press. The fellow forward recalled vividly the strategy he and Luisetti had employed: a forward-led full-court press.
“We did something differently. Luisetti and I would go down the court and meet the two guards who were bringing the ball up the court,” Zonne said. “They were so confused at one point that one of the guards handed [Luisetti] the basketball.”
After his collegiate career, Luisetti played on amateur club teams, including the Phillips 66ers and St. Mary’s Pre-Flight. He also coached the Stewart Chevrolets to the Amateur Athletic Union championship in 1951.
In addition to Gommeringer, Luisetti is survived by his son, Steven, of Sacramento, his daughter, Nancy, of St. Louis, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.