Former Winter Park High basketball standout will have his jersey retired Friday night.
He’s been known by locals as the “Wizard of Winter Park” — to others, he’s most well known as the “Godfather of Winter Park Basketball.”
The nicknames he picked up from admiring fans during his basketball playing days have lingered on to this day, but now Stan Pietkiewicz is being honored in a way that few players get to boast.
At 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2, between the Wildcats’ junior varsity and varsity basketball games, Pietkiewicz will stand alongside family and friends on the very court that he called home — watching as his No. 34 hangs from the rafters of Winter Park High’s gym.
“I’m incredibly thankful, grateful and appreciative that I had great coaches and great teammates — basketball as you know is not an individual game, it’s a team game,” Pietkiewicz said. “I was really blessed. … If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be receiving this.”
Having your jersey number retired is one of the biggest honors an individual athlete can receive from a former team. It is symbolic of the level of play by an athlete, and it is incredibly fitting that Pietkiewicz will receive the honor when considering his two-years of varsity ball at Winter Park.
A native of Huntsville, Alabama, Pietkiewicz grew up in Winter Park and attended WPHS from 1970 to 1974.
Just like most students, Pietkiewicz played on the JV team his first two years, before making the transition to varsity.
From there, Pietkiewicz made history.
During his earliest days, Pietkiewicz played at the point, although later in high school he moved into a combo-guard position, which is where he thrived.
Pietkiewicz was a court quarterback and a pure shooter, and at 6-foot-5 — which is a bit tall for someone playing at the guard position — he had the size to move people around.
In 1974, his overall game — which included an average of 29 points per game throughout the 1973-1974 season — led to him winning the attention of many throughout Florida. He was named an All-American and the Central Florida Player of the Year, while being placed on the All-Southern Team, All-Central Florida First Team, and All-State First Team.
His performance, not only as an individual but also as a team player, helped lead Winter Park to back-to-back Final Fours in 1973 and 1974 — finishing as state runner-up in 1974. Through all of his state tournament appearances, Pietkiewicz averaged a whopping 33 points per game, which is impressive when you note that this was before the development of the three-point line.
But the biggest highlight of all, Pietkiewicz said, came from the showdowns with Maynard Evans High School (Orlando).
“We had just a tremendous rivalry with Evans High School, which had Darryl Dawkins, so we had to beat his team out to advance in the district and on to the States,” Pietkiewicz said. “Our junior and senior year, we did that.”
Those battles with the 6-foot-11 center, known as “Chocolate Thunder” due in part to his backboard shattering dunks — are memories that Pietkiewicz recalls fondly with great nostalgia, though his basketball career didn’t end there.
After finishing with 1,277 total points for his career, Pietkiewicz traveled back to Alabama to play for the Tigers of Auburn. There, Pietkiewicz played in 100 games throughout his four-year career. He became the school record-holder for free-throw percentage, and his 1,265 points placed him at No. 6 on Auburn’s all-time scoring list when he graduated.
After graduating from Auburn in 1978, Pietkiewicz was picked up by the Buffalo Braves — who that year would move to San Diego and become the Clippers — in the seventh round of the NBA draft with the 133rd overall pick.
During his pro-ball adventures, he had two stints with the Clippers, one stint with the Dallas Mavericks, a few with teams in the now defunct Continental Basketball League, and finally a few years of international ball in Italy from 1981 to 1984.
Although the current Realtor’s basketball days are a bit behind him, Pietkiewicz said he is thankful for the chance to share those moments with both the crowd, and his family, at Winter Park High on Friday night.
“They’re very excited, and they know what kind of passion I have for basketball,” Pietkiewicz said. “And I’m excited that my kids, who obviously didn’t get to see me play, get a chance to experience this as well.”