Walter Piatkowski Jr. Inducted 1996 - Class of 1964
To those who have followed Woodward's basketball teams, and reveled in their accomplishments, Walt Piatkowski is definitely NOT a well-kept secret. As the writer of this biography, I remember tagging along with my older sister (much to her dismay) to watch Woodward Varsity Basketball games. I was one of many fans in awe of Walt.
Walt Piatkowski led WHS to their last basketball championship, in 1964. He was the team's co-captain, and was 1st Team, All-City for 3 years. Walt was All-State as a Junior and as a Senior. He was an All-American his Senior year. While deserving all these awards, the real winners were Woodward's basketball fans, who witnessed his outstanding play.
Walt attended Hamilton School and Parkland Junior High. He grew up in North Toledo, on Clay Street, and remembers his neighborhood as "clean and middle-class."
Due to his participation in sports, Walt made many friends. His best friends were Dave Kornowa, Dennis Kornowa, and Jim Leininger. He reminisces about visiting with his friends in the morning before classes started and discussing school and social events. Oh, those hallowed halls of Woodward, where "walking and talking" the halls was a favorite pastime for so many.
Walt has high praise for his favorite teachers, Jim Knierim and Jim Wilusz. Both were also basketball coaches. Jim Wilusz, math teacher and Junior Varsity Coach, "made learning fun, both in the classroom and on the basketball floor.
Walt credits Varsity Basketball Coach Jim Knierim as having a profound effect on his life. "Coach Knierim helped me become a young adult and gave my life meaning. He also prepared me for college basketball and helped me to receive a four-year scholarship. He knew I had ability and potential. When I was in the 8th grade, he had me come over to Woodward and practice with the varsity in the off-season. He helped me to identify my goals and achieve them. These goals were to 'do it' in the classroom and on the basketball floor and to receive a college education."
For many WHS graduates, Walt Piatkowski's basketball feats are remembered. When asked about his memories of high school, Walt singles out Woodward winning the City Championship his senior year and making All-State. He also mentions going to his favorite restaurant, Angelo's, after the ballgames. Angelo's is a memory shared by many Woodward grads, but all good things must come to an end. Angelo's closed last year, and the building is now vacant.
Walt's performances were not limited to the basketball court. Mrs. Donovan, speech teacher, asked Walt to be in the senior play, Lil Abner. "She needed someone tall to play a part, so she asked me, since I was the center on the basketball team. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had at Woodward!"
After graduation, Walt continued to make his mark in his chosen sport. He graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1968 and played basketball all 4 years. He was also a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity. Walt was the #1 draft pick of the ABA Denver Rockets and played pro ball for 4 years. He was nominated for Rookie of the Year and finished 2nd in voting. He played on the All-Rookie Team.
Walt's professional career has been in sales. He has been a sales rep for Champion Papers in Denver, Colorado. For the past 18 years, he has been a sales rep for International Paper, covering Nebraska and South Dakota. Walt currently resides in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Walt is married to Susan Lynne, whom he met while attending Bowling Green State University. They have 4 sons, who typify the "like father, like son"t heory. All are successful in their chosen fields and educational pursuits. David, 28, teaches and coaches basketball in Omaha, Nebraska. He played basketball for Hastings College. Eric, 25, plays pro basketball for the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers. Sean, 21, is a sophomore at Bakersfield College in California, where he plays basketball. Troy, 19, is a freshman at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, also plays basketball. Walt also boasts about his grandson, Caleb, who is 8 months old. No, he does not play basketball. ..yet!
Walt's hobbies are coaching his sons and watching them play sports, playing golf, going to the movies, and boating. He and his wife also enjoy going to restaurants in the various cities they visit to watch their sons play ball.
When informed of his election to the Woodward Hall of Fame, he said that he was truly honored. "I am very proud to be in the same category as the others who have been inducted over the years."