He was one of the biggest little men in basketball. Recruited to the Dons by legendary coach Pete Newell, the 5-foot, 5-inch Willie “Woo Woo” Wong is considered one of the best Chinese American basketball players of all time. He was also the first Chinese American to play in the National Invitation Tournament and to play at Madison Square Garden.
One of seven children raised by poor Chinese immigrants in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Wong practiced with tennis balls until an uncle one day gave him a basketball as a gift. The practice paid off. Newell would call him “one of the finest passers and floor men ever to step up to college competition.”
His full name was William Woo Wong, but he became known as “Woo Woo” because that’s what the crowd chanted every time he scored.
After he died last year at age 79, the city’s Chinese Playground—located across the street from the flat he grew up in—was renamed in his honor, making it the first park in the country named after a Chinese American athlete. Wong was inducted posthumously into the USF Athletic Hall of Fame in February.
Other inductees were:
- Juli Christopher Hilton (golf), who in 1993 led the team to its first tournament victory.
- John Drocco (special category), who coached football, women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s cross country at USF. He was also a member of the Green and Gold Club Board of Directors and the Hub Flynn Hall of Fame Committee.
- Marlene Henderson (basketball), a two-time All-West Coast Conference first team selection and a two-time USF MVP in 1991 and 1992.
In addition, the 1956–1957 NCAA championship men’s basketball team received special recognition at the induction ceremony.