One of the most prominent and decorated athletes ever to graduate from Oceanside High School, Arthur “Art” Heyman, who was known across the county for his role in the rise of Duke University basketball in the early 1960s, died on Aug. 27, at age 71, in Groveland, Fla.
Heyman, a 1959 graduate of OHS and a former resident of Rockville Centre, was the captain of the first Blue Devils team to make it to the semifinals of the NCAA basketball championships in 1963. The New York Knicks made Heyman the very first pick in the 1963 National Basketball Association draft.
Heyman made a name for himself as one of Oceanside’s greatest athletes, and he is still described that way 50 years later. “He was an outstanding player. He was probably the best on Long Island,” said Frank Januszewski, Heyman’s high school coach. “He was a hell of a soccer player, too. I think he could have played anything.”
During Heyman’s sophomore year at OHS, the Sailors were runners-up in the Nassau County basketball championships. Two years later, Heyman, by then a high school All-American, led the squad to the school’s first county title. His senior-year average of 29.1 points per game remains a school record.
The 6-foot-5-inch guard and forward also holds OHS records for rebounds in a season (396) and free throws in a single game (19). According to Richard Woods, an OHS teacher and the director of the Circle of Pride hall of fame, Heyman scored 1,409 points in his career, a number which doesn’t accurately reflect his talent because the Sailors so dominated many of the teams they played that he often sat out the second half.
Heyman’s performances propelled him into the national spotlight and onto the Blue Devils team. According to a press release from Duke, freshman were not yet allowed to play varsity sports, though Heyman made a name for himself on the freshman team. By his second year at Duke, he was named a co-captain and ranked eighth in the nation in average points per game.
But it was during his senior year, when the Blue Devils reached the Final Four for the first time, that Heyman solidified his reputation, as well the team’s, as being among the best in the nation. According to the press release, he was named Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, ACC Tournament MVP, NCAA Player of the Year and Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
“He was a tough, tough New York kid and he was an insatiable competitor,” former Blue Devils Coach Bucky Waters said in the press release. “Art had committed to [the University of] North Carolina, but when he changed his mind and came to Duke, that was the start of sustained national achievement.”
Heyman is credited in part with creating the intense Duke-UNC rivalry, thanks to his decision to attend Duke and his on-court battles with UNC point guard Larry Brown, himself a Long Island native.
After the 1963 NBA draft, Heyman played eight seasons in the NBA and the American Basketball Association, helping the ABA’s Pittsburgh Pipers win the league championship in 1968.
Despite his fame — and his relocation later in life to Florida — Heyman never forgot about his beginnings in Oceanside. He returned often to attend games, and recently met with Jeff Risener, the district’s director of phys. ed., health and athletics. “He really had Oceanside in his heart,” Risener said. “He said that he wanted to further reach out to Oceanside and connect.”
According to Risener, Heyman, a 2003 inductee into OHS’s Circle of Pride, also donated money to keep the hall of fame “alive and well.” Other well-known members of the Circle of Pride include former NFL quarterback Jay Fiedler and former Kansas City Royals pitcher Dennis Leonard.
Woods described Heyman’s interest in OHS sports as having grown in recent years. “He would give pep talks to the basketball team,” Woods recalled. “You just love to see that a man like him was, at that point in his life, really caring about other people and the school that he came from.”
District Superintendent Dr. Herb Brown, who often sat with Heyman during the Sailors games he attended, enjoyed the time he spent getting to know him, both at the games and at the restaurant Heyman owned in Manhattan, Tracy J’s Watering Hole. “I sat next to him at many games over the past 10 years, and we talked about the teams today,” Brown said. “He never gave up his relationship or his love of Oceanside. He was a celebrity; he was the real deal.”