Saratoga Springs Resident Selected for Basketball Hall of Fame
By Arthur Gonick
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Fred Shear, a Saratoga County native who is a member of Siena College’s class of 1973, has received a major honor that caps off an impressive basketball career. He has been named to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s (MAAC) Hall of Fame Honor Roll, and on October 17, he will be enshrined in “The MAAC Experience” exhibit in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA.
Shear set numerous scoring and other records while at Siena, several of which still stand today. These records were established despite competing in an era when college players were only eligible to play for three years, and at a time when there was no 3-point scoring line or shot clock to inflate scoring totals. He is one of only four players in the college’s illustrious history to have his number (50) retired, and it hangs at the Times Union Center in Albany.
Shear is a long-time resident of Saratoga Springs with his wife, Christine. The couple will be celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. When asked about this latest honor, Shear exhibited a sense of gratitude and humility.
“Obviously, the recognition is wonderful,” he said, “but I have to accept and acknowledge it on behalf of my coaches and teammates.”
During Fred Shear’s time at Siena, the conference they played in was known as the “MECA,” short for Middle Eastern Collegiate Association. Many of Siena’s big rivals are the same as today – such as Iona, Marist and St. Peters, and… “Albany State, as it was known in those days,” Shear said. “We would play them twice a year, plus in a Capital District Basketball Tournament that had RPI and Union. Those games were always a struggle.”
Most home games were played in Gibbons Hall on campus, which had a capacity of about 1,000. “Even then, Siena fans had a mania about the team. With the fans so close to the action, it made for a real home court advantage,” Shear said. The bigger games were played in the Washington Avenue Armory, which seated about 5,000. “The alumni at Siena have always been supportive. Because so many graduates remain in the Capital Region, that also leads to lifelong relationships that I am proud to enjoy. That’s why this is such an honor. Any time you can represent Siena, it’s a great thing,” he said.
“I always strived for consistency on both ends of the floor,” Shear said. That consistency is evidenced by his senior career scoring average of 20.3 – which is the same as his three-year average at Siena. But if Shear was consistent, it was consistently at a high plane. Consider these career highlights – a few selected among many:
- -He was the first 2-time basketball All-American in Siena’s history.
- -He is a member of the Capital District Basketball Hall of Fame, the Waterford/Halfmoon High School Hall of Fame (where he also set several records,) and was the first player to be elected to Siena College’s Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility (1978).
- -Shear was the fastest player in Siena history to score 1,000 points (52 games) and held Siena’s career total scoring record (again, without the 3-point line, playing less games per year and only three years) for 14 years.
His biggest and most memorable win, Shear recalls, was his first as a senior. Named as Captain of the squad, “it was the very first game for (now legendary) Coach Bill Kirsch. We had to travel on the road at Seton Hall – a big time program that was coached by (now CBS’ NCAA Commentator) Bill Raftery. It was a great win to start off a great career for our Coach,” Shear noted.
Now retired after over 30 years in sales for Kimberly Clark, Fred Shear continues to be active in basketball. He goes to games at his alma mater Siena, as well as those for Waterford/Halfmoon and other area High Schools. He had high praise for current Saratoga Springs High School Coach Matt Usher, whom Shear coached when Usher himself was on the JV and Varsity squads at SSHS.
And it is as a coach, giving back to the community, that Shear’s excellence continues to have a lasting impact. He has been an assistant coach in both the Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa School Districts. Currently, he can be seen on the sidelines for 2 AAU squads (under 16 and ages 13-14) in Saratoga Springs, and works on intensive skills with selected elementary students in the Ballston Spa School District. “I do my best with young players. It’s great to work with them, they are very receptive and I find I can get them on the right path if I work with them before their habits are molded,” he said.
Any young player would doubtless benefit from Fred Shear’s basketball expertise, but more importantly from his example as a role model. Enshrinement in The Basketball Hall of Fame is a fitting reward.
When asked how it will feel to walk into the Hall on October 17 and see his exhibit, he said, laughing,
“You know, I have to tell you. I’ve never been there! But I’m certainly looking forward to it.”