Katsikis twins, stars of the '80s, charter members of Cherry Hill East HOF

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Nick (left) and Tom Katsikis were basketball stars for Cherry Hill East, and will be among the first 16 inductees to the school's athletic hall of fame. LOU RABITO / Staff

For Nick and Tom Katsikis, memories of their legendary days on the basketball court for Cherry Hill East High School are bittersweet.

Sweet, because the twins were stars during the 1980s, perhaps the most exciting era in South Jersey boys' basketball history.

Bitter, because their most famous games were losses to mighty Camden teams of those days.

"One time, I made a shot late in a game and I'm running past [Camden coach] Clarence Turner and I'm yelling, 'We got you this time, sucker,' " Tom Katsikis recalled with a laugh. "I was so confident we were going to win. But it backfired on me."

Nick Katsikis remembers his brother's outburst.

"I'll never forget it," Nick Katsikis said. "Man, I wish we would have beaten Camden."

The Katsikis twins are in the first class of the Cherry Hill East High School athletic Hall of Fame. They are among 16 inductees, including the late Virginia Whitaker, the first female athletic director in South Jersey.

The Katsikis twins were four-year varsity players who led Cherry Hill East to a 69-15 record in their final three seasons. They were both 1,500-point career scorers.

"That was before the three-point shot," said former Cherry Hill East and current Camden coach John Valore said. "And those guys could shoot from distance."

The brothers, who graduated in 1986, were part of a remarkable decade in Cherry Hill East sports, with fellow first-class inductees such as swimmers Sean Killion ('86) and Stephanie Schwab ('89), wrestlers Tom Nugent ('83) and Greg Casamento ('88), football star Glenn Foley ('89), soccer legend Andrea Rubio ('89) and three-sport standout Wendy Young ('87).

"That was an incredible time at East," Tom Katsikis said. "Sports at the school was ridiculous. The students, the way they would cheer and chant at games, it was something I'll never forget."

No events featured more atmosphere than Cherry Hill East's basketball games with Camden in the mid-1980s.

It's important to remember that Camden wasn't a state power in those days. The Panthers were a national power, with undefeated teams in 1984 and 1986 that were ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today.

In the twins' final three seasons, Cherry Hill East was 0-7 against Camden and 69-8 against everybody else.

"They'd come out for warm-ups and one guy would throw the ball off the backboard and the next guy would slam it," Nick Katsikis said. "Nobody does that now."

Valore said the Cougars' home game against Camden in 1986 - the teams met twice in the regular season in the old South Jersey North Conference - was played before perhaps the largest crowd ever in the school's cavernous gymnasium.

"We had [portable] bleachers set up behind the baskets," Valore said. "One of the TV stations in Philadelphia wanted to 'mike' me for the game, so I asked the principal.

"He told me, 'I guarantee you if they 'mike' you for this game, you won't be the coach tomorrow.' "

Talented and confident, the Katsikis twins relished the excitement of that era.

"We loved it," Nick Katsikis said. "We had each other. I would breathe in and he would breathe out - that's how close we were."

Tom Katsikis played at Temple. Nick Katsikis played at Seton Hall and was a valuable member of the 1989 Pirates team that lost to Michigan in the national title game on a controversial call.

The Katsikis twins were part of a senior class at Cherry Hill East that included four 1,000-point scorers and Division I players along with Frankie Williams (George Washington) and Marc Levy (American).

"When we were in seventh and eighth grade, Frankie's uncle Kenny Durrett used to train us," Tom Katsikis said of the legendary former La Salle star. "Those were such incredible times for us."

This coming basketball season will mark 30 years since the Katsikis twins staged their epic battles with Camden clubs that featured players such as Louis Banks, Denny Brown and Vic Carstarphen, the former Temple star who currently is an assistant to Valore for the Panthers.

"I can't believe it's 30 years," Nick Katsikis said. "Those four years, they went by so fast."

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