Seton Hall University Athletics held its 2015 Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies on Monday night at the Fairmount Country Club in Chatham, New Jersey.
The night was filled with emotions as four Seton Hall greats were inducted into the Hall of Fame – Joe Cerchio, Greg Jemison, Samuel Dalembert and Dr. John Petillo.
“Tonight’s always a great night because we have such a great history here at Seton Hall,” Pirates Athletic Director Pat Lyons said. “It really gives us the opportunity to reflect back on it. We have great inductees going into the Hall of Fame tonight and there’s nothing better than having them come back and reliving all the memories. These people really are the best of the best.”
Lyons, as well as Seton Hall University President Gabriel Esteban, were very excited about how far the athletic program has come over the years.
“The connection between Seton Hall Athletics and the University itself has been a key component of who we are as a University, President Esteban said. “When people think and talk about Seton Hall they first and foremost associate it with the Big East Conference. People know that we are a University with strong academics but it doesn’t hurt that we have that association with the Big East.”
Esteban also stated, “I used to play a lot of basketball and I was fascinated to end up at a University where basketball is a big sport here. The connection between Fox Sports and Seton Hall has given us great exposure and its import that our athletic program continues to get its name out there.”
The 2015 Hall of Fame class featured four former Pirates; Cerchio ‘96, Jemison ’76, Petillo ’69 and Dalembert.
Lou Cerchio ‘96
As a native of Scotch Plains, N.J., Cerchio graduated from Scotch Plains High School and continued his wrestling career at the nearby Seton Hall University. Cerchio was a member of the Seton Hall wrestling team from 1990-95. He had an outstanding record at Seton Hall, winning 103 matches to go along with 25 loses in his four years with the Pirates. The wrestler helped lead Seton Hall to three NCAA qualifiers and brought national attention to the Hall.
As a senior, Cerchio finished seventh in the NCAA Tournament. Following the tournament he was named an All-American at 167 pounds. It was a year he won 41 matches, the Big Northeast Wrestling championship, and finished his final season at 41-7. Cerchio put the Pirates wrestling team back on the map and was viewed as one of the best wrestlers in the nation during his time in South Orange.
Cerchio was excited to be a part of the induction ceremony and thrilled to be elected into the Seton Hall University Athletics Hall of Fame, as well as happy to be the local kid that had an impact.
“It was great being a local kid coming out Scotch Plains high school,” he said. “You’re a role model for the young kids in the area and younger wrestlers at Scotch Plains high. I was lucky enough to be able to bring home some of my teammates for a home cooked meal. That’s how close I was to home.”
Cerchio also reflected on his teammates at the Hall.
“We were all from the same group,” he said. “We all weren’t the last standing, but we stuck up for each other and there was no separating us. We all had that common drive to be successful.”
A key part of Seton Hall’s back-to-back College World Series baseball teams in 1974 and 75’, Jemison showed prolific speed on the base paths, as well as in the outfield. He set Pirate records in career (114), and single-season (44 in 1976) stolen bases while with the Pirates and was the team leader in swipes three out of his four seasons in the blue and white.
Jemison was a first round draft pick in 1976 by the Texas Rangers. The speedster went on to play five seasons in the minors but never made it past Double-A.
“Being inducted tonight is still unbelievable,” Jemison said. “I still haven’t wrapped my hands around it. It’s special.”
Jemison has many memories from the Hall, including those back-to-back College World Series appearances.
“It’s unbelievable, what we had to go through was unbelievable. No one expected us to be there coming from up North, but we were a good team,” Jemison said. “The pieces fell in place and we went to Omaha.”
Jemison also had a great relationship with his head coach, Bob Sheppard Sr.
“My first game was amazing – Shep was unbelievable.” Jemison stated. “I will tell you this, those four years at Seton Hall were the best four years of my life.”
Nicknamed the “Haitian Sensation,” Dalembert is one of the Pirates more notable basketball players.
He played at SHU between 1999 and 2001 and was a part of Seton Hall’s Sweet 16 team in 2000. One of the best big men in the country, the 6-foot, 11-inch center dominated in his freshmen season, averaging 3.9 blocks per game in Big East play. He earned All-Metropolitan third team, Big East All-Rookie and Seton Hall Freshman of the Year honors. Dalembert ended his career at Seton Hall as the all-time leader in blocks (167) and is second in field goal percentage (.537).
He was selected in the first round, 26th overall, in the 2001 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.
When asked why he selected Seton Hall, Dalembert stated, “Seton Hall was small enough to feel like family, but big enough to give me the tools I needed to succeed.”
Dalembert also commented on his NBA career.
“People always say I’m lucky to play in the NBA… I say you’re right, the harder I work the luckier I get.”
Dalembert also mentioned that he would love to get involved with the Seton Hall program when he is finished with his playing career. He believes he has three or four years left as a pro.
“I would definitely come back, Dalembert said. “I would love to be able to give back and help out.”
Dr. John Petillo
Dr. Petillo served as Seton Hall’s chancellor from 1984-89, bringing change to the university in a variety of ways.
Petillo helped the Seton Hall Athletics program get back on the map, overseeing the Pirates when the men’s basketball team reached the championship game of the 1989 NCAA Tournament, as well as five Big East winning programs.
Seton Hall also underwent and completed multiple facility projects with Petillo at the helm, including the construction of four residence halls. Petillo helped transform Seton Hall from a commuter school to one with residential buildings that students could call home. Petillo earned both a bachelor’s degree and a masters from the Hall.
“Being inducted means a lot to me because of all that was done at my time at Seton Hall,” Petillo said. “It was a real team effort moving Seton Hall from a commuter school to a residential school. I was lucky enough to be here at a time of great success.”
Charlie Mule can be reached at email@example.com.