Inductees Billy Mann, a Chicago prep standout, teamed up with Gene Melchiorre, from suburban Chicago, to form the most famous duo in Bradley basketball history.
It was always “Mann and Melchiorre” when the two were talked about from the time played together on the Fort Sheridan team that once played and defeated Caterpillar in the Peoria Armory the year before the two enrolled at Bradley.
During his four years of varsity play, Mann scored 1,128 points, shooting .431 for his career. He was picked on the 1940s Team of the Decade in BU’s search for its all-time Top 15 players.
During his career, Bradley won 119 games and lost just 22. The Braves were fourth in the NIT in his sophomore season, second in both the NIT and NCAA in his junior year and second in the post-season Hawaiian Tournament and Bradley’s own campus tournament at the end of his senior year. He was named to the 1950 all-NIT team.
“We played together as one,” recalls Melchiorre. “We always knew what the other would be doing and where he would be. He could do it all: score, rebound, pass. He was a lot better when the game was on the line. And he was a better person than a ball player.”
Mann passed away in August of 1993.
Billy Mann, a Chicago prep standout, teamed up with Gene Melchiorre, from suburban Chicago, to form the most famous duo in Bradley basketball history.
Hockey was a sport local fans could watch only if they went to Chicago or St. Louis until BardezBanian founded the Peoria Stars in 1959.
The two were with the Pekin Stars until 1970, when they formed the Peoria Blades, on the outdoor rink at Logan, in 1971. The Logan "bubble" went up the next year and the Blades, through membership in the Continental League, gave Peoria a solid taste of hockey.
BardezBanian played with the Blades for a few years, then became president while Olson always served as the team's general manager.
And the two gave hockey a boost whenever they could. BardezBanian coached the Bradley University club team for many years and both were instrumental in starting and maintaining youth hockey in Pekin and Peoria.
Both are now retired, Olson from Caterpillar's Mossville plant and BardezBanian from a management position with the City of Peoria.