January, 1958, was special for Tom Shaules, for St. Augustine High, and for basketball in San Diego.
This month, in 2013, marked the 55th anniversary of Shaules’ run through the City Prep League.
The 5-foot, 8-inch senior scored a record 60 points against Crawford, led the Saints in two games in which they scored more than 100, and created a basketball frenzy in North Park.
Friday night home games at St. Augustine meant get there early. The tiny gymnasium at 32nd and Nutmeg was built to accommodate about 500 persons. Attendance would be double that, as long as the fire marshal wasn’t around.
(Some things never change. Try walking up today at the last minute and hope to get a ticket to watch coach Mike Haupt’s highly-ranked Saints).
On January 8, 1958, St. Augustine jumped to a 46-18 halftime lead over Crawford, an underdeveloped and out-manned first-year school.
Shaules had 27 points in the first two quarters.
Jerry Moriarty, the Saints’ coach, turned the second half over to Tom Carter, the varsity football mentor who also doubled as JV basketball coach.
Moriarty got into his automobile and drove a few miles East to Hoover to scout the remainder of the Cardinals-San Diego game, both upcoming opponents for St. Augustine.
A very late-evening telephone call awakened Moriarty at home. Someone, possibly Carter, was calling to say that Shaules finished the game with 60 points and that St. Augustine had won 102-38.
Shaules quarterly scoring output was 13, 14, 13, and 20. Evening Tribune reporter Paul Cour wrote: “The Saints’ sharpshooter scored 20 field goals on driving layins and his unorthodox jump shot from around the key.”
This in an era long before three-point shooting arc.
Shaules also made 20 of 21 free throw attempts, including 17 in a row. The Saints led 76-24 after three quarters.
Carter sat Shaules for the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, according to Cour.
“Coach Moriarty wouldn’t have let me play that much,” said Shaules. “He was embarrassed. The next time we played Crawford I only played the first half.”
Shaules followed with 34 points to pass 1,000 in two seasons in a 71-57 victory over Kearny, then had 37 more in a 105-34 victory over La Jolla.
Next up was Lincoln. Hornets coach Don Smith said he would not make any drastic defensive changes.
“Teams have two-timed Shaules; they’ve used a zone against him, and he still scores,” Smith told Cour. “We’ll play the game like any other. We think we can win the ball game.”
Shaules sniped the Hornets for 38 points in a 74-50 victory.
St. Augustine then took a rest from City Prep League competition and defeated Arizona’s visiting Yuma High Criminals 62-51 as Shaules scored 23 points.
St. Augustine finally was stopped, when Hoover scored a 55-48 victory and Shaules was held to 19 points in a slow, dreadful affair in which 48 personal fouls were called, 24 on each team.
After an earlier, 62-56 victory over San Diego, the Saints and Cavers met again. San Diego High brought in bleachers to increase its gymnasium’s capacity from about 900 to 1,500.
A turnaway crowd of more than 1,600 (the entrance was closed an hour before tipoff) watched the Cavers, who would finish with a 23-2 record, score a 65-57 victory. Shaules scored 27.
St. Augustine, in its first City League season, finished with a 20-6 record and tied for second with an 11-5 league standing. Shaules set the County scoring record with 735 points and a 28.3 average.
St. Augustine was not a basketball school. Shaules’ supporting cast essentially was Sammy Owens, a rugged forward and 15-point scorer known more as one of the City League’s best football running backs. Alex Castro, a defensive specialist, was the Saints’ other starting guard.
“Bill Whittaker (a playground mentor who went on to a legendary career as baseball coach at St. Augustine) taught me some things when I was 8 or 9 years old,” said Shaules, “but my idol was a guy named Robin Freeman.”
Shaules fashioned a jump shot that, like Freeman’s, had a reverse spin on the ball. A 30-point scorer, Freeman was an all-America at Ohio State in the early ‘fifties, when Shaules was a student at Blessed Sacrament, the grammar school which also lists Bill Walton among its alumni.
His records have been broken but Shaules remains a San Diego hoops legend.
He was known as “Shotgun” Shaules during a successful career for Seattle University, then a powerful independent whose alums included future NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor.
“I went with Elgin (on what could be termed as a recruiting visit) and the team back to Louisville for the NCAA finals when they played Kentucky,” Shaules remembered.
The NCAA would frown upon the practice today.
Shaules went into sales for the National Filter Company after college and finally was able to relocate to San Diego in 1998. A widower with three grown children, Tom resides today in the Chula Vista suburb of Eastlake.