Merson emerged from the playgrounds of Brooklyn to become one of the best guards in New York City in the mid-1930s. He played at Long Island University under legendary coach Clair Bee when the Blackbirds were numbered among the top basketball programs in the country. As co-captain of the 1937 squad, Merson helped lead LIU to an undefeated season in 1936 when they captured the mythical Eastern championship.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. April 30, 1915 - d. May 8, 2001
After joining the LIU varsity basketball team midway through the 1934 season as a sophomore, Merson played a more prominent role for the Blackbirds in 1935. The 1934 team had finished 26-1 and was finally recognized as a basketball power (the program began in 1928 and struggled for recognition among New York Cityís other schools). During the 1934-35 season, the Blackbirds continued their ascent to the top of college basketball by going 24-2 and breaking a number of scoring records. Merson, primarily a guard who occasionally played forward, fit in well and scored 160 points, fourth most on the team (and sixth in the Metropolitan area).
In 1936, LIUís high-scoring attack went undefeated (26-0) and was finally recognized as New York Cityís preeminent basketball team by winning the mythical Eastern Championship. A starting guard, Merson finished second on the team in scoring with 199 points (third in the New York Metropolitan area), and was named first team All-Met alongside teammates Julie Bender (the leading scorer) and Ben Kramer (both were forwards).
In 1937, LIU continued its success as they added another star to the starting line-up, sophomore forward, Irv Torgoff (Bender moved to guard). Merson, co-captain with Bender, finished fourth on the squad in scoring with 180 points, as LIU won the mythical Metropolitan championship with a record of 28-3. They won their first ten games of the season, running their winning streak to an incredible 43 games before it was broken by Hank Luisetti and Stanford in one of the most famous games in college basketball history.
After graduating, Merson played in the American Basketball League for a couple of years and then became a coach. Merson coached Elizabeth of the ABL in 1947, and then the Patterson Panthers of the ABL in 1948-49, leading his teams to the league finals in all three seasons.
New York City
Merson played guard at LIU, 1934-1937.
Use links below to navigate through the basketball section of Jews In Sports.
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
New York Times, March 6, 1935
New York Times, March 9, 1936
New York Times, March 15, 1937