With the recent cancellation of all Ivy League winter sports, Penn basketball fans may be looking to the past to get their fix of Quaker hoops. Where better to turn to relive the good old days than to the career of Philly legend Ernie Beck?
Beck was born and raised in Philadelphia and chose to attend Penn over offers from other Big 5 schools Villanova and La Salle, along with Notre Dame. He had just come off of a solid high school career at West Catholic Prep, making varsity as a sophomore, gaining a starting spot as a junior, and winning the Philadelphia city championship as a senior.
In Beck’s first year playing for Penn, he led the NCAA in rebounds, which is nearly unheard of for a 6-foot-4 guard.
Beck’s absurd numbers did not end there, as he holds numerous school records at Penn. His 25.9 average points per game in a season (1952-53), 22.3 average points per game over his career, and 1,557 total rebounds remain unmatched by any subsequent Quaker. Two more of his records, his 704 field goals made and 1,827 career points, were only surpassed last season by then-senior AJ Brodeur after standing for more than 60 years.
While Beck may have led the NCAA in rebounding in his sophomore year, it was his senior year that most would point to as his best. He was named a consensus first-team All-American, and Penn won the Ivy League title. They advanced to the regional semifinal round of the NCAA Tournament, where they fell to Notre Dame. Along with his record-setting 25.9 points per game, Beck averaged 17.3 rebounds per game and made 80% of his free throws. He led the Red and the Blue to a 22-5 record, a 10-2 Ivy League record, and an undefeated season at home at the Palestra.
Beck’s Philly career did not end at Penn, however. He was selected as a territorial pick in the 1953 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia Warriors and played for them for six seasons, winning an NBA championship in 1956. They defeated the Pistons that year, and Beck averaged 5.2 points, 1.2 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game.
“I had my best game in the first game of the championship series,” Beck said. “I was the sixth man on the team and came off the bench and scored 24, 25 points in that game.”
Beck would go on to average 6.3 points, 1.8 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game in his seven-year NBA career. 1957-58 was his best statistical season, as he averaged double-digit points for the whole season, along with 2.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Beck remains a fan of the Penn basketball program, often attending games at the Palestra (including the one in which Brodeur broke his career points record). He is unquestionably a Penn and Philadelphia legend, so if you need something to fulfill your Penn basketball fix this season, read up on Ernie Beck.
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