Jim Huggard, 1961 University graduate and former member of the mens’ basketball team, passed away on Friday, Oct. 16.
Huggard was a member of the men’s basketball team from 1958-61 and is a member of the Philadelphia Big Five Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Villanova Basketball Hall of Fame.
Men’s basketball head coach Jay Wright released a statement on Twitter sharing the news and expressing his sympathies.
“Our Villanova Family mourns the passing of a @NovaMBB Legend Jim Huggard,” Wright tweeted. “The original tough Philly, Villanova guard. Our love and prayers go out to the Huggard family.”
Huggard was from the area and graduated from West Catholic High School in Philadelphia, cementing his place as one of the original, tough Philadelphia guards, as mentioned in Wright’s tweet.
The tweet had multiple comments from Villanova basketball fans and classmates of Huggard sending their condolences to the family during this time.
During his three years as a member of the team, Huggard averaged 15.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, establishing himself as one of the early greats of the men’s basketball program.
Huggard played under head coach Alexander Severance and made his mark early on as a sophomore during his first year with the team. That year, he averaged 15.2 points per game and helped lead Villanova to a 18-7 record and a bid to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
As a junior, Huggard averaged 15 points per game and helped lead the Wildcats to a 20-6 record and a second straight NIT berth.
He averaged a career high 17.3 points per game as a senior on the team.
Huggard appeared in 75 games for Villanova and totaled 1,184 points in his career. He was one of Villanova’s first 1,000 point scorers.
Today, 1,000 point scorers are celebrated, but it is doubly impressive when one considers that Huggard only played three years of varsity basketball at Villanova, played without a three point line and still easily surpassed the 1,000 point threshold.
In his first two seasons as a Wildcat, Huggard shot 39% from the field. As a senior, his accuracy grew to 42% from the field and 77% from the free throw line, strong signs of his hard work and ability to improve. Not only was he a standout player, but he helped the team tremendously, leading the Wildcats to a 49-26 record in his three years.
Despite playing before the days of the Big East and an expanded NCAA Tournament, Huggard helped lead the basketball program to the sky high heights it sits at today.
The culture of the Villanova men’s basketball program goes back to its early days, including what Huggard did at Villanova. Without the likes of Huggard and his head coach Al Severance, Villanova might not be seen as one of the elite programs in the college basketball world.
After graduating from Villanova, Huggard continued with basketball. He played professionally in the Eastern League, which was an elite league in the days before NBA expansion, and he worked as a Division I referee and basketball coach.
Two of his seasons as a head coach were at nearby Bonner-Prendergast, a member of the Philadelphia Catholic League. Huggard coached two seasons at the local high school starting in 1978 and went 12-16 in Catholic League games.