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Milton Gross
December 27, 1954
A senior at La Salle, Tom Gola is headed for his third straight All-America. Fame hasn't spoiled him and he's still a family boy
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December 27, 1954

In Philadelphia Nearly Everybody Likes Gola

A senior at La Salle, Tom Gola is headed for his third straight All-America. Fame hasn't spoiled him and he's still a family boy

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Each week the La Salle Collegian, undergraduate newspaper of La Salle College, a Christian Brothers institution in the Olney section of Philadelphia, selects one of its students for the Explorer of the Week Award. The selection is based on athletic achievement and all but one among La Salle's 1,400 students are eligible.

The victim of the discrimination is Tom Gola. As a freshman, Gola led the La Salle basketball team to the National Invitation Tournament title in March, 1952. As a junior he took La Salle to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championship last March. During these years he won the award so frequently that he has been permanently banned by the editors, who take the humane view that the rest of the students deserve a chance too.

Gola, an affable yet intense giant who exerts most of his efforts to vanishing into the ranks of the student body, is in total agreement. He is a loyal, serious citizen who loves his home and school and happens to enjoy playing basketball well. He would like to let it go at that, but he can't.

In a basketball sense he is as be-medaled and bespangled as a Graustarkian general. He has been called the best college basketball player in the country. Any number of college coaches insist he is the best who ever laced on a sneaker.

After watching Gola in one game during his freshman season, Joe Lapchick, one-time center of the Original Celtics and now coach of the New York Knickerbockers of the National Basketball Association, estimated that this 18-year-old whiz could move directly into any of the professional league's starting line-ups.

The two seasons which have passed scarcely have punctured Lapchick's balloonlike appraisal. Gola, who stands 6 feet 7� inches on the court, has grown 1� inches in height since entering La Salle and immeasurably in stature. Unless calamity inexplicably strikes him, he will end his college career next June singularly honored by being one of few ever named to a majority All-America three times. Last year during the NCAA Tourney Gola was the only player chosen unanimously for the all-tourney team.

He has in different years been chosen the outstanding player to appear that season in New York's Madison Square Garden, Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium, San Francisco's Cow Palace, Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium, Philadelphia's Convention Hall and the University of Pennsylvania's Palestra.


Gola's awards have run into such numbers, in fact, that a measure of his celebrity has even reached into Wildwood, N.J., a seaside resort where Gola's family spends its summers. A rooming house on Oak Avenue owned by Jerry Bergin, a Philadelphia neighbor of the Golas, was renamed " NCAA (Nice, Clean, Airy, Accessible)" after La Salle won the championship at Kansas City.

On the surface, this may not sound important, but it is for a player who, despite national acclaim, has never lost the neighborhood touch. A virtual cult of Gola admirers has developed among basketball players, coaches, writers and fans. But Gola prefers playing with the kids in the playgrounds, church gyms and schoolyards of Philadelphia's Incarnation (Catholic) Parish, where he himself first learned to handle a basketball. This is just one more reason why Gola is about the most popular player in the city's history.

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