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Goretti honors six Gael forces as inaugural induction class to Hall of Fame

November 26, 2011|By TIM KOELBLE | koelble@herald-mail.com
  • The St. Maria Goretti Athletic Hall of Fame's first class of inductees, or their representatives, line up for pictures before Saturday's MAIT championship boys basketball game at Goretti. From left to right, are Mark Keller (nephew of the late Richard 'Dick' Keller), Terrie Wills (wife of the late Bill Wills), Carol Wills Crabtree (Bill Wills' daughter), Tom Wills (Bill Wills' brother), Lois Snyder (sister of Susie Garrott Brown), Cokey Robertson, Brandon Monroe (son of Rodney Monroe) and Jen Piccolomini.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — From Richard Keller to Cokey Robertson, the first induction class to St. Maria Goretti Athletic Hall of Fame covers a lifetime, dating back to 1948 when the was school known as Saint Mary High School.

Six individuals from that heritage were formally inducted at a luncheon ceremony on Saturday as Keller, Robertson were joined by Bill Wills, Rodney Monroe, Susie Garrott Brown and Jen Piccolomini as the first inductees to be enshrined.

The history runs deep as Keller led Washington County in scoring with 338 points in 1948. He was a captain of the boys team for two years at Saint Mary before it became St. Maria Goretti High School in 1955.

“We missed (Dick) terribly,” said his brother, Carroll, who accepted the award. “He was a gregarious type of person.”

Also excelling in American Legion baseball, Keller was only 43 when he died in 1973.

The span of time stretches to 2008 when Robertson retired after serving 34 years as the boys basketball coach at Goretti. Including stops at Westminster and Thomas Johnson, Robertson accumulated 860 victories, second most in Maryland history, along with four Baltimore Catholic League titles to simply put Goretti on the basketball map.

“This award sits right up there among the best,” said Robertson, who is also a member of the Washington County Sports Hall of Fame. “There have been a lot of nice things over my career. It’s more than just about wins. It’s like a thank you for the dedication and hours.”

Between Keller and Robertson are individuals with credentials second to none.

Wills starred in basketball for Goretti and scored more than 1,600 points, which included a sophomore season when he averaged 22 points a game. He landed a scholarship to Middle Tennessee State before eventually transferring to Shepherd College.

“(Bill) would have been honored to be a part of this award,” said his brother, Tom. “He was an unselfish sportsman.”

Monroe scored 3,407 points in four years at Goretti before becoming the all-time leading scorer at North Carolina State and the 1991 ACC player of the year.

The 1987 Goretti grad is currently boys basketball coach at South Lake Christian Academy in Huntersville, N.C.

His award was accepted by his son Brandon, who lives in Hagerstown and coaches the Western Heights Middle School basketball team.

“I learned how to work hard from him,” said Brandon Monroe. “He was competitive and I got all of that from him being in the gym. I can remember being 3, 4 years old with a Fisher Price basketball set.”

Brown was a four-year basketball player at Goretti but also excelled in volleyball before graduating in 1976.

Brown’s sister Ellen Castalano accepted the award for Brown, who is a mother of four and currently living in Albany, Ga., accepted her sister’s award.

“I knew and learned she put her heart and soul into everything she did,” Castalano said.

Goretti went without a girls basketball program for many years until Robertson reistituted the program as athletic director, which opened the door for Piccolomini, who resides in Lessburg, Va.

“I would always see (Rodney’s) jersey in the foyer and that was insiration for me,” said Piccolomini, who also played volleyball before graduating in 1999. “I am humbled to be in the first class. Goretti was a special place and it still is.”

Hall of Fame inductees bios:
Richard ‘Dick’ Keller
St. Mary Class of 1949 (before becoming St. Maria Goretti in 1955). Keller was captain of the Gaels in 1948-49 and led Washington County in scoring in 1948 with 338 points. Averaged 15.3 points in 1949. American Legion Junior League third baseman. Caddied at Fountain Head Country Club and was an avid golfer, winning the Caddies Medalist title in 1948. Stayed involved with the athletic program at Goretti until his death in 1973.

Bill Wills
Goretti Class of 1959. Scored over 1,600 points in his four-year basketball career. Led the senior team to a 20-1 record, including a huge upset of unbeaten North Hagerstown in 1959. He was an all-Blue Ridge Conference selection three years and averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds as a sophomore. Played nine years in the Hub City Basketball League and was an MVP. Played at Shepherd College after transferring from Middle Tennessee State. Died at age 43.

Susie Garrott Brown
Goretti Class of 1976. Played basketball four years and then two years of basketball and volleyball at Hagerstown Junior College. She was named the top female athlete at Goretti three times. After HJC, went to Frostburg State College and excelled in tennis.

Cokey Robertson
Goretti boys basetball coach from 1974-2008. Robertson coached Goretti to four Baltimore Catholic League titles in his 34-year tenure. In his 48-year coaching career which includes stints at Westminster and Thomas Johnson, Robertson had 860 wins, second most in Maryland history. Founded and still directs Mid-Maryland Sports Camps.

Rodney Monroe
Goretti Class of 1987. Ranks as the school’s greatest boys basketball player. Scored 3,407 points in four years. Went on to become the all-time leading scorer at North Carolina State University, was drafted by and played one year for the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA. Was the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year in 1991. Is currently the head boys coach and athletic director at  South Lake Christian Academy in Huntersville, N.C.

Jen Piccolomini
Goretti Class of 1999. Played basketball and volleyball from 1997-99 before continuing her career in both sports at McDaniel College. Scored 1,336 points in basketball at McDaniel. First all-time in 3-point goals made at McDaniel and eighth in rebounding.

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