The foundation for Basketball was built on the efforts of many. At times, we tend to think the sport began with the players. It did. But many of the early players that gave basketball its start were talented individuals who did not play the sport on the court.
They were gifted, dynamic people that nurtured the burgeoning sport with the vision, organization and management skills that provided basketball with the momentum to be propelled to its current leading position in indoor sports.
One such person was Newton S. Hillyard, founder of the Hillyard Companies. N. S. founded the Hillyard Companies during the deep economic depression in 1907. The economic hard times did not intimidate him. He was the type of person that loved a challenge and subsisted on determination. In the years that followed, N. S. labored tirelessly to develop and patent innovative new maintenance products to serve the institutional and corporate communities throughout the United States.
When his son, Marvin, approached N.S. to sponsor a basketball team, in typical N. S. fashion, he poured all his efforts into it striving for success and looking for new challenges to expand, improve and promote the sport. N. S. was unhappy with the slippery oil dressings used on early wood gym floors. He felt they were unsafe, dirty and were a source of injury for players. N. S. decided to develop wood gym floor coatings that were durable, easy-to-maintain, and offered his players a sure-footed surface for winning.
During World War I, Marvin Hillyard passed away. It was his wish the company's team be developed and nurtured to achieve national prominence. N. S. carried out his wish. Another of N. S. Hillyard's sons, Robert B. Hillyard, took over Marvin's daily team management responsibilities and started the long road to building a championship team.
N. S. continued his work to make basketball a prominent indoor sport. To help develop his revolutionary new coatings and to give his team a home court to display their talents, he erected a new plant and office building in 1920 that had one important addition: a 90' by 140' wood floor gymnasium on the top floor of the building that was then the largest gym floor west of the Mississippi River. He used the floor to perfect his world-class, wood gym seals and finishes, and his team supplied the grueling tournament play needed to test his new inventions.
With the help of R.B. Hillyard and Coach George W. Levis, the Hillyard team grew in ability and stature. By the 1925-26 season, the Hillyard team won the National A.A.U. basketball championship. They won it a second time in 1926.
The Hillyard team was made up of early All-American legendary players: F. S. DeBernardi, the team captain and forward who was later inducted into The Basketball Hall Of Fame; G. E. Rody, forward; E. R. Giltner, forward; Harold Hewett, forward; J. R. Mosby, guard; G. O. Starbuck, guard; C. D. Allen, guard; Earl E. Mueller, center; and J. P. Wulf, center. It was the "dream team" of the era that N.S.'s son, Marvin, had wished for.
Basketball greats thought so highly of N. S. Hillyard that sports writers had fondly nicknamed him the "Mr. Big" of basketball and he was continually honored for his contributions to the sport. When it came time to award the game ball from the first Olympic tryouts in 1936, the United States team members all autographed the ball and presented it to N. S. on behalf of the players, coaches, officials and sports writers for his contribution to the game.
Since N. S. Hillyard's passing, the following generation of Hillyard family members have continued to grow and expand the scope of the Hillyard Companies' product line and distribution to where it is now international in scope. The Hillyard Companies are still ever present in the sport of basketball. The basketball legacy left by N. S. has continued with Hillyard support of the NCAA, NAIA., NABC., The Basketball Hall of Fame and many other basketball organizations.
The Hillyard family and companies have supported The Basketball Hall Of Fame since its inception. N. S. Hillyard's son-in-law, Elliot C. Spratt, was the first president of The Basketball Hall Of Fame. N. S. Hillyard's grandson, R. Haskell Hillyard, carried on the Hillyard tradition of service to basketball by serving as a Hall Of Fame Trustee for many years and remains a Trustee Emeritus. Haskell Hillyard also received the John Bunn Award for his and his company's many contributions to The Basketball Hall Of Fame.
For the Hillyard family and companies' many contributions to basketball, the main lobby of The Basketball Hall Of Fame has been dedicated as a permanent exhibit to their many accomplishments.
As in the beginning, today Hillyard coatings and maintenance products remain the products of choice for wood gym floors in community centers, grade schools, high schools, colleges, universities and on N. B. A. courts throughout the U.S. and the world.
The Hillyard commitment to basketball has earned the Hillyard Companies a position of honor in The Basketball Hall of Fame and with players, coaches, administrators, facility managers, owners and basketball fans everywhere.