Jackie Gillon, one of Hudson’s all-time basketball greats, dies at age 65

In a hotbed of high school basketball talent, he was the security guard everyone else was compared to.

He molded his game to the electric style of Hall of Famer “Pistol” Pete Maravich, but Jackie Gillon, who played at Memorial High School in West New York and the University of South Carolina, made a name for himself.

Gillon, who later went on to teach in the West New York school district, died on January 5 at age 65.

Hudson County has produced its share of great college and NBA players, and Gillon is arguably still among the handful of the best of them all.

“He was the best guard and the most entertaining player of his time,” said Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Hurley. “In the 60s, 70s and 80s every player was compared to Jackie Gillon. (David) Rivers (a first round pick in the 1988 NBA Draft) was my first really good point guard. … Anyone would say, ‘Rivers showed some flashes. Reminds you of Jackie Gillon.”

Inducted into the Hudson County Hall of Fame in 2002, Gillon played for Memorial from 1971 to 1974 and led the Tigers to three consecutive North Hudson Championships and the Hudson County Championship in 1973.

“He was a great, great, great player,” said Rep. Albio Sires, a star basketball player at Memorial High just before Gillon’s arrival there. “He was soaking 150lbs, but he could do things with a ball that were magical. He frustrated every player he played against.”

Hurley said that when teams pressured Gillon and tried to get physical with him because of his size, Gillon responded by “going past the (defender), then waiting for him to catch up, and then he would go past him again.”

After averaging 25 points per game as a senior and being named to the Parade All-America team, Gillion played in South Carolina for Hall of Fame coach Frank McGuire. At USC, Gillon finished with 1,125 points and led the Gamecocks in assists all four years.

He was drafted by the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and played professionally in Argentina for four years.

“Good coaching and learning the game early on,” Gillon said of his skills in a 2008 interview. “Fill it in the middle of the break and know when to eat. Sure, playing with guys like I did (in South Carolina) – Alex English, Mike Dunleavy and the others – didn’t hurt. We had great players around me.”

Gillon “played the game with joy and a recklessness that drove (McGuire) crazy at times, but he was as focused and intense as anyone you would ever meet on the field and in practice,” Doug Jolley, writing for the Gamecock from the school newspaper, said in a Facebook post. “When it came time to relax, he was just one of the guys.”

A Change.org petition has already been created to rename Memorial High School’s gymnasium in Gillon’s honor.

A post from the Memorial Alumni Facebook page paid tribute to the star.

“Jackie was hands down the best I’ve seen play and what a show he put on in every game. He lit up the court and was unstoppable. Apart from being a great player I was blessed to have him my friend. Rest in peace Jackie, know that everyone loved you. Thanks for the memories my friend.”

Jackie Gillon

A Jersey Journal clipping of a February 6, 1974 Memorial High School victory over Emerson. Gillon scored 23 in the game.COME

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