John Payak Jr. Inducted 1983 - Class of 1944
John Payak, Jr., is a 1944 graduate of Woodward High School, where he was an outstanding basketball player. He went on to star at Bowling Green State University and in professional basketball, become a basketball official and administrator, and operate successful Toledo insurance agency.
At Bowling Green he started at guard for four seasons. From 1949 to 1954 he played professionally for Philadelphia and Milwaukee of the National Basketball Association. When his playing career ended, he became a basketball official, first at high school games and then, for 15 years, in the Big Ten and Mid-American Conferences. He also served for three years as vice president in charge of basketball for the Northwestern Ohio Officials Association.
In 1969 the Mid-American Conference named Mr. Payak as its first supervisor of basketball officials. He served in that capacity for 13 years, resigning in 1982 to devote more time to his
business, which he operates as the Payak Insurance Agency, Inc. He also resigned then as instructor of a course in basketball officiating at the University of Toledo and as interpreter of basketball rules for Northwest Ohio high schools.
Earlier in 1982, Mr. Payak was one of only two athletes named that year to the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. The other honored then was Tony Kubek, the baseball announcer and former New York Yankee shortstop.
Woodward fans of the time will remember Mr. Payak for his stellar play on Polar Bear basketball teams but perhaps best of all for his performance in the finals of the Toledo sectional tournament in March, 1943, when Woodward defeated the defending champions, Central Catholic, by a 43-42 score. Here is what the Blade said, in part, in its report on the game: “It was one of the greatest sectional finals in the history of the Toledo event. . ."The score was tied seven times, and Woodward's final edge came with only a few seconds to play when Johnny Payak, the Bears’ forward, scored on one of the really sensational shots of the tournament, going under the bucket for a backhand flip into the nets for the winning points. "Payak turned in a magnificent performance. He was the key of the Woodward attack and defense and ran up 28 points for the high scoring performance of the tournament."