MU Legend Andy Tonkavich Dies

Former Marshall University basketball standout Andrew Edward "Andy" Tonkavich passed away this weekend at age 83 in Inverness, Florida. Tonkavich is one of the top scorers in Marshall men's basketball all-time and was captain of the 1946-47 Herd teams which won the National Championship in the National Association for Intercollegiate Basketball in Kansas City, Missouri and is two Halls of Fame.

The championship of the NAIB (today's NAIA, the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics) came for a Marshall team coached by legendary Herd coach Cam Henderson that won five games in six days in Kansas City to finish with 32 wins versus only five losses for the year, best in school history. A crowd estimated at over 15,000 met the team at the C&O Railroad Station, site of today's CSX headquarters on Seventh Avenue in Huntington. Tonkavich was the captain of that team and the second-leading scorer for Marshall that season with 408 points, and was named to the All-Tournament team.

In his sophomore year of 1945-46, Tonkavich scored 494 points and that total is still the 37th best single-season scoring mark in Marshall history, but it is the third best for players on teams prior to 1950. Tonkavich was a first team NAIA All-American that season, then was both a second team NAIA All-American and an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American his senior year of 1947-48, leading the Herd to the quarterfinals of the NAIA Tournament that season as well, finishing 22-11.

Over four seasons at Marshall, Tonkavich scored 1,578 points. That total is still the 11th best career total in school history, nearly 60 years after Tonkavich left Marshall. His Herd teams finished with a win-loss mark of 95-35 over four seasons, a 73 percent winning percentage. His play earned Tonkavich a place in the initial basketball class of the Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame in 1985 as well as induction into the Helms Foundation NAIA Hall of Fame. He was a first-round draft selection played one season in the Basketball Associaion of America in 1948-49 (which became today's NBA in 1949), scoring 2.6 points per game in 17 games for the Providence Steamrollers, who were last in the BAA with just 12 wins and 48 losses that season. He then played for the Wheeling Blues of the Tri-State Pro Basketball league from 1950-52, alongside players like Bill Hall of Marshall and Leland Byrd of West Virginia, on a team coached by former Herd great Jule Rivlin. The Wheeling, W.Va. team played against teams froms Ohio (Youngstown, Dayton and Columbus); Pennsylvania (Johnstown, Altoona and Pittsburgh); and Maryland (Cumberland).

Tonkavich died Saturday, September 2, at Citrus Memorial Hospital. He was born November 1, 1922, in Uniontown, W.Va. and lived in Benwood, near Wheeling. After retiring from basketball, Tonkavich was a retired teacher and coach in the local school system. He was a lifetime member of the Inverness Elks and the Disabled American Veterans. He served in the U.S. Army. Tonkavich is survived by two sons, Dawn (of Baton Rouge, La.) and Michael (of Providence, R.I.), and two daughters, Andrea and Jari, both of Inverness; one sister, Helen Munjas of Shady Side,Ohio; one grandchild and one great-grandchild.


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