Once a reserve center who kept the bench warm for the Watertown High boys’ basketball team, Tom Haggerty later found his passion for the game down the road at Brandeis University, setting career records that still stand.
The 1969 grad is the only Brandeis player to surpass 1,000 career points (1,140) and rebounds (1,004, a school record). He is also the Judges’ career leader in field goal percentage (.581) and the single-season record holder in rebounds (335) and field goal percentage (.657).
“I played basketball in high school because I was tall and people expected me to do it,’’ recalled the 72-year-old Haggerty.
“But during my senior year at Watertown, the athletic director at Brandeis, Irv Olin, encouraged me to apply. My mom worked in the payroll office at the university and he heard about her 6-foot-9 son.’’
Before his freshman season, Olin taught him to cradle the ball on his fingertips when he shot and Haggerty practiced hundreds of free throws and 20-footers on his own, primarily at Saltonstall Park in Watertown.
As a junior and senior, Haggerty was coached by former Celtic K.C. Jones. Brandeis became a winning team while Haggerty grew to 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds and dominated inside.
Honored as the team’s Most Improved and Most Outstanding Player, Haggerty traveled to Europe with a college all-star team after graduation.
A history major, he went on to work as recreation director in Acton, Stoneham, and Sudbury and then drove a taxi in Waltham for 20 years. A Boxborough resident, he was inducted into the Brandeis Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018.
“Making the Brandeis team taught me the value of hard work,’’ he said, “and athletics taught me respect for others. When I worked with kids as a recreation director, my advice to them was ‘Stay positive.’ ’’Marvin Pave can be reached at [email protected].