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Gone but never forgotten: Tom Konchalski’s lasting impact on the sport of basketball

By Carley Crain

He had no computer, cell phone, or license, but Tom Konchalski was always scribbling down detailed notes about high school basketball stars in his yellow notepad. Known as the “glider” for the effortless way he eased in and out of gyms while simultaneously being able to tell you everything about a player, his calm and reserved demeanor brought a different type of energy to the game of basketball – one that will never be forgotten.

Legendary high school basketball scout Tom Konchalski passed away last year at the age of 74 from prostate cancer. An empty chair sits at the scouting table during the 2022 Spalding Hoophall Classic in his honor. 

For the past 43 years, Konchalski’s presence has been felt throughout all levels of basketball. His combination of knowledge, passion and empathy for players made his approach to recruiting special. 

Tom Konchalski watching a game. (Photo: Sports Buzz)

For a high school player, scouts and recruiters can be intimidating. Usually, a lot of pressure comes with playing at the elite level, but Konchalski was known for his gentle and calming attitude when working with players, no matter what level of basketball they played. 

College coaches appreciated his High School Basketball Illustrated Report, which highlighted stats, players and rankings of hundreds of prospects. Many coaches, like Springfield College men’s basketball head coach Charlie Brock, found Konchalski’s work to be extremely helpful.

“He recruited [everyone], from the best players to ones that could play at all levels – which is interesting in itself because sometimes people get in that realm where they just want to focus on the big-time guys because sometimes that involves more glamor or glitz,” said Brock. “But Tom wasn’t like that at all. He just evaluated players and was very accurate.”

His eye for talent and detail was unique as well, as was his unmatched sense for spotting skills on the court. LeBron James, for example, was one of many athletes Konchalski scouted during his long career.

Konchalski made the trip to Springfield College for the Hoophall Classic many times, knowing the significance of the tournament and its impact on the sport for young, promising athletes. With no car or license, Konchalski traveled to Blake Arena either on bus or train despite being offered rides and transportation by others. His old-fashioned, independent work routine was what helped make him such a great high school scout, said Brock. 

“He was always everywhere and went to all the games,” Brock said. “One game in particular that I remember was in Brooklyn to see a kid we were chasing. The place was packed, as it was a playoff game and he was there. He saw me and came up into the stands to say hello. He was just such a great guy.”

His absence this year feels eerie and strange, especially for Brock, who had a close, professional relationship with Konchalski. 

“Tom was very much a big-time player in the world of basketball recruiting, but never acted that way,” said Brock. “He was always a very humble man. He would spend the same time with a small college coach as he did with a major college coach. He was always respected for his humility, integrity and his honesty.”

Konchalski’s influence over the sport he loved will never be forgotten, especially at the premier high school basketball showcase, where he will always have a place.

Photo: Adam Zagoria

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