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Before I dive into the amazing career and legacy of B.B. Flenory, I want to share the great conversation I had with him on my podcast, Total Sports Recall. He is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, and it was a pleasure to have him on the show.
The city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, used to have a professional basketball team from 1967 to 1972 that went by two names. They were the Pipers and then renamed to the Condors. They played in the old American Basketball Association (ABA) which eventually folded. There hasn’t been a pro team since. So, when it comes to basketball in the Steel City, talk is typically about the University of Pittsburgh Panthers or Duquesne University and the Dukes.
There is also plenty of great high school basketball so in Pittsburgh if you are talking about great players that came from the city, one might first mention Norm Nixon who played at Duquesne, then had a fine career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Billy Knight might come to mind as he starred at Pitt and then played in the NBA. But the most common, popular name, and perhaps the best basketball player ever in the city of Pittsburgh would be Baron “B.B.” Flenory.
B.B. Flenory began his basketball stardom in Pittsburgh by playing for Ridge Avenue Junior High School where he once scored 81 points in one game. That performance landed him in Sports Illustrated Magazine as part of the “Faces in the Crowd” column. In that season at Ridge Avenue Junior High, B.B. Flenory averaged 50.2 points per game.
While he was still in junior high, Flenory was offered a scholarship to play ball and attend Robert Louis Stevenson Prep School in Pebble Beach, California. But wanting to stay close to home so his parents could watch him play, Flenory stayed in school in Pittsburgh and attended Valley High School where he got his education and his time on the court.
At Valley, Flenory set the school’s single game scoring record of 52 points and four times scored over 40. For his years there, he scored 1,896 points. He accomplished that in just three seasons since freshman were not permitted to play on the varsity team. At Valley High School, B.B. Flenory was an A-K scoring champion and in multiple instances was named to the All-Section team as well as being named Section Most Valuable Player in not just his junior season but for his senior year as well.
Flenory was named to the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic League (WPIAL) first team all-state by the UPI and AP for both his junior and senior seasons. In his senior season, he was named the M.V.P. for the state of Pennsylvania. The very famous Parade All-American team placed Flenory on that team in his senior season making B.B. Flenory just one of 13 basketball players from Western Pennsylvania to ever receive that honor.
In Pittsburgh there used to be an annual tournament called the “Dapper Dan Roundball Classic” which B.B. Flenory played in several times. It would pit a Pennsylvania team of all-stars against an all-star team made up of players from around the United States. In one game of that tournament, Flenory scored 25 points to lead all scorers.
During his junior season Valley High School was ranked fifth in the country and that team was voted by area coaches as the greatest team in Allegheny-Kiski Valley area history. After a historic high school career, Flenory wanted to play ball in college at West Virginia University but instead stayed close to his parents by accepting a scholarship to play with Norm Nixon at Duquesne University his freshman year.
While playing for the Dukes, Flenory scored over 40 points twice. When he faced West Virginia University, his first choice school, Flenory scored 48 points in their coliseum establishing a new record for that facility and subsequently being named Sports Illustrated’s Player of the Week. West Virginia also had a tournament named the “West Virginia Mountaineer Classic” where Flenory scored 41 points in the first round of one tournament and then followed that up with another 48 in the championship game thus the 89 points scored became a tournament record and Flenory was named M.V.P.
While playing for Duquesne, B.B. Flenory was named to Atlantic 10’s first-team in both his junior and senior seasons. Flenory led the league in scoring during his junior season while averaging 21 points per game. Flenory is the only player in Duquesne basketball history to lead the team in scoring and assists in three straight seasons. The last time the Dukes made the NCAA March madness tournament was in 1977 and BB Flenory started for Duquesne in those playoffs as a freshman. B.B. was named captain of the team his senior year, and their team was invited to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
In 1980, B.B. Flenory was called for a tryout with the Boston Celtics. Of the rookies invited to training camp, Flenory was the final cut among other rookies. He explains that it wasn’t a case of him not being a good enough player but the competition to make the roster was at the highest level. The rookies that did make the team were none other than Larry Bird and Gerald Henderson. But also, on that roster were some very impressive names. Tiny Archibald, M.L. Carr, Don Chaney, Dave Cowens, Chris Ford, Cedric Maxwell, Rick Robey, and the great Pete Maravich. That talent was just too rich with some of these men eventually ending up in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
One of B.B. Flenory’s highest honors came in 2010 when he was inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame. Even more impressive is the fact that the Pittsburgh Basketball Club has created a new award named in his honor which will be the “BB Flenory Guard of the Year Award” and goes to the top high school guard in Western Pennsylvania. When asked about this honor B.B. said:
“I am really humbled and honored to have an award named after me. That may sound like the company line. I have received a lot of awards in my lifetime, but I have never received one as special as this. My legacy will live on and on for my kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. I began playing basketball in 3rd grade and this is one of the highlights of my life. In 1968 Valley had a great team and won the section championship and that’s when I knew that basketball was going to be my game.”
In New Kensington, Pennsylvania where B.B. Flenory grew up and played his basketball on community courts, there will be a court built in his honor. On Barnes Street in New Kensington there will be court number “15” the jersey number Flenory wore while in high school.
There have been numerous honors in B.B. Flenory’s life. In 2016, he was voted onto a team made up of 26 other players that were Duquesne University’s “All-Century” team. Flenory said, “I was glad the fans voted for me. It shows the fans from New Kensington and Pittsburgh remember B.B., and I appreciate it.”
So, anyone currently living in Pittsburgh, those who grew up in this great city, mention high school and college basketball and the name B.B. Flenory will absolutely come into the conversation. The name Flenory is synonymous with basketball in the Steel City. All the honors and accolades are well deserved. Basketball fans like me from Pittsburgh who had the opportunity to see B.B. Flenory play will remember well his flashy skills, his ball handling capabilities, and his all-around showmanship personality.
These days Flenory is a Transition Specialist at the Pressley Ridge School in Pittsburgh where he helps troubled and mentally challenged youths. Flenory also runs his own basketball camps and is the Vice President of the “Willie Thrower Foundation” that honors the memory of the former NFL quarterback, the first African American quarterback to play in the National Football League.
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