“If he had played in a time when they had the three-point shot, he would have scored over 2000 points,” said former teammate and friend George “Butch” Joseph of tonight’s inductee James Beckwith. “He could do it all.”
While Beckwith never had the opportunity to reach the 2000-point plateau, he nonetheless set the standard by which basketball players during his era were measured at Keene State College. Standing six-foot, one inch tall and weighing just under 200 pounds, Beckwith utilized his catlike quickness and long arms to keep opponents at bay while he poured an assortment of shots from inside and away from the basket.
“There’s no question in my mind he could have played at a big time college and be successful,” added Joseph.Thankfully, Beckwith, a Keene native, decided to return to his hometown college. And from the years 1957 through 1961 Owl fans had the opportunity to view his mastery of the hardwood.
Finishing his career with 1,444 points, third best on KSC’s all-time scoring list, Beckwith is just one of two Owl basketball players to average over 20 points (20.1 ppg.) during their playing days. But that didn’t seem to matter to the talented forward who got just as much a thrill setting a teammates up for a basket.
“We didn’t win much, but we had a great time,” said Beckwith of his time with the Owls.
It didn’t take long for word of Beckwith’s prowess on the court to spread throughout the Granite State. Following a standout career at Keene High School, Beckwith entered the Marine Corps. He briefly attended the University of New Hampshire, before returning home and enrolling at KSC.
Sumner Joyce, the Owls’ coach at the time, realized early he had struck gold when Beckwith came a board and immediately inserted the freshman into his line-up. “Sumner was a cool customer, and I think he appreciated the maturity and leadership I brought to the team,” said Beckwith.
He, along with the rest of the Owl fans who packed the rafters of the Old Spaulding Gym, also liked his shooting. In addition to having a variety of shots in his arsenal, including his infamous hook shot, Beckwith was also proud of his accuracy at the foul line. “I had a few tricks I would use to get free underneath the basket,” Beckwith recalled. “But I also took a lot of pride in my foul shooting.”
Married with two sons at the time, Beckwith worked his way through school as a carpenter while also keeping up with his studies. “I think basketball was a good out let for me,” said Beckwith, who was also popular with his teammates.
Scoring over 30 points on several occasions, a remarkable accomplishment at the time, Beckwith would go on to set a career scoring mark at Keene State that would stand for over 15 years. And while records are made to be broken and the game has continued to evolve, Beckwith’s accomplishments on the court stand the test of time.
“I’m very proud of the awards and fond memories I have playing at Keene State,” said Beckwith “It’s something you don’t forget.”
Receiving his degree in Industrial Arts, Beckwith, taught for 22 years in Stanford and Litchfield Conn., before retiring.