inducted October 2, 2008
John Azary was born and raised in New York City where he learned to play basketball on the hard cement of the schoolyard grounds. Azary began his career at Columbia with large shoes to fill, replacing the great Walt Budko, who had just graduated Columbia to pursue a career in the National Basketball Association.
Always the first to come to practice and the last to leave, former Columbia head coach Gordon Ridings said, “I never saw a harder worker than John. He once stayed an hour after practice taking foul shots because he had missed two out of ten free throws in the previous night’s game.”
While defense may have been Azary's greatest attribute – he was always assigned to the opponent's leading scorer – Azary was the third Columbian in program history to score 1,000 points, achieving the milestone in just three seasons. He was a three-time All-Eastern Intercollegiate League selection, earning second team honors as a sophomore in 1949 and first-team accolades in 1950 and 1951, when he was named the league's most valuable player by the league's head coaches.
Azary was the captain of the 1950-51 team that finished the regular season at 22-0 and won the Eastern Intercollegiate League title, running off 31 straight victories at one point during his career.
Azary also received the Haggerty Award as the top player in the New York City metropolitan area that season. He was named a second team All-American by the United Press and a third team selection by the Associated Press. After the season, he was drafted eighth overall by the Boston Celtics in the 1951 NBA Draft.
Along with being a basketball superstar, John Azary was a member of the National Guard. While at Pine Camp, N.Y., one summer for National Guard training, Azary caught a piece of shrapnel in his thigh during an exercise where live ammunition was being used. He was hospitalized for a month and his college basketball career was in question, but the wound eventually healed and he was able to successfully reclaim the Lions’ court. After four stellar years, Azary graduated Columbia College in 1951 with a sociology degree. After military service in the Korean War, he continued his basketball career in the Eastern League, a professional minor league.
On September 15, 1981, Azary passed away at the age of 51.