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Monday, July 28, 2014
Mepham honors basketball great
(Page 3 of 4)
Donovan Berthoud/Herald
Mepham basketball great Joseph Metzger III recently had his number retired during a surprise ceremony at his alma mater. Joining him to celebrate were, from left, daughter-in-law Mary Ann Metzger, daughter Tammy McLoughlin, grandson Austin McLoughlin, son David Metzger, his wife, Joyce, granddaughter Bailey McLoughlin, son-in-law Brian McLoughlin and Mepham Principal Michael Harrington.

While at Greenbrier, Metzger partially severed his anterior cruciate ligament when he slammed against a set of bleachers. Doctors told him that he had a “trick knee” — and he could not enter the Naval Academy. Instead, he played at Wagner College in Staten Island, alongside 6-foot-11 Lonnie West, who went on to play for the Harlem Globetrotters.

“It was top-flight basketball,” Metzger said. “Basketball in New York City was the crème de la crème.” He even played at Madison Square Garden. A week after graduating from Wagner with a degree in accounting in June 1961, Metzger married Joyce, his high school sweetheart, whom he had met during services at Christ Lutheran Church in Freeport. The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary two years ago.

In 1961, Metzger was drafted by the U.S. Army in response to the Berlin Crisis, when the Soviet Union demanded the immediate withdrawal of western military forces from what was then West Berlin and began construction of the Berlin Wall to separate East and West Berlin. Metzger received military training at Fort Dix, N.J., and Camp Drum, N.Y., before he was shipped to Europe –– where he played two seasons with an all-star Army basketball team that competed against Olympic squads from around Europe. The Metzgers toured the major capitals of Western Europe. A general wanted to see the Army team capture a European championship, and when he heard about Metzger’s exploits at Wagner College, he recruited him.

“That was a great situation,” Metzger said.

Life after basketball

After returning to the states, he and Joyce settled back into Merrick. Joe landed a finance job at Meadowbrook National Bank and later at the Irving Trust Company on Wall Street. He traveled the globe, assembling complex deals to finance cargo ships and oil tankers. Along the way, he earned an executive certificate in finance from the Harvard School of Business. Eventually, though, his travel-heavy schedule wore on him, and he decided to start his own real estate finance firm, Julip Properties Inc., which is headquartered on Merrick Avenue in Merrick.

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