As the biggest kid on the block, things always came easily to Murray Melton.
“I can’t really give myself a lot of credit,” said Melton, the all-time leading scorer for the Nott Terrace boys’ basketball team. “Yeah, I played a lot and practiced a lot, but when I was young, I was the biggest kid around. It was like I was way ahead of all the other kids.”
A member of Nott Terrace’s final graduating class of 1957, Melton will be inducted into the Schenectady City School District’s Athletic Hall of Fame Monday night at Proctors.
Melton, who has lived in Las Vegas for the last 32 years, is remembered as one of the best pure shooters to ever put on a basketball uniform in the city. Also a standout baseball player for Nott Terrace, he went on to play both sports at Columbia University.
“It’s a great honor and I’m very proud,” said Melton, referring to his inclusion into the Hall of Fame. “I’m very happy that people would recognize me this way and remember me.”
Melton grew up on Albany Street near McClellan Street, and went to Halsey Elementary School and Central Park Middle School. He started playing basketball at the age of 8, when his mother sent him to the Schenectady Jewish Community Center.
“They had a basketball court there, and that’s where I started playing,” said Melton, whose father ran a small grocery store on Albany Street. “I think that’s why I was ahead of the other kids. I started playing early and I was so big. When I played Little League, I looked like one of the fathers. I was the best player around, but it was because I was coordinated, I loved all sports, and I was so much bigger than anyone else.”
Melton said he was 5-foot-6 by the time he played Little League baseball, and as a sophomore on Nott Terrace’s varsity under legendary basketball coach Walt Przybylo, he was 6-foot-0. However, he never got any taller.
“Yeah, I was hoping I would be a big six-footer, but then I just stopped growing,” he said. “I was so far ahead of everybody else, but then they started catching up with me.”
While he may have stopped growing at 6-foot, the left-handed Melton didn’t stop improving on the basketball court. He led the Class A League in scoring both his junior and senior season, and twice went over 40 points in a single game. In a game against Watertown his senior season, Melton scored 42 points, including 17 in the third quarter and 30 in the second half.
He played guard much of his career, but also was used at forward and center on occasion. Regardless of where he was on the floor, Melton’s soft shooting touch was always on display.
“He was a great shooter, the best I ever saw,” said Barry Kramer, a former All-American at Linton High School and New York University. “He had a touch that was unparalleled. I saw him score 60 points once in a game at the Rotterdam Boys Club. Sure, it was a small gym, but he had five guys trying to stop him, and they couldn’t. He’d be out near half-court, making shots from everywhere.”
Kramer was three years behind Melton in school.
“He was my hero when I was a kid,” said Kramer, a member of the Hall of Fame class back in 1999. “I used to follow him around and watch him play all the time. He taught me a lot, and became a good friend.”
Melton went on to play collegiately at Columbia University and averaged a team-high 18 points a game his sophomore season. But he didn’t enjoy the experience, and as a senior he stopped playing basketball and instead picked up his baseball glove that spring, going 5-0 for the Lions’ varsity baseball team.
“I should have gone someplace else, but I kind of followed my sister there; she went to Barnard, and when I was there, they had one of their worst basketball teams ever,” said Melton. “It wasn’t a great situation, I wasn’t happy there, and then I ended up quitting and playing baseball.”
After his senior year on the baseball diamond, the Los Angeles Dodgers contacted Melton about a minor league contract, but he wasn’t interested.
“I had an offer, but I was kind of discouraged by then and really didn’t think about it,” said Melton, who had a 63-2 career pitching record with the Krals in the Schenectady Twilight League. “That was another bad decision I made. I should have looked into that, too.”
Bill Kirvin, a 1958 Mont Pleasant grad and 2003 Hall of Fame inductee, said Melton could have had a much more celebrated college career if he had not gone to Columbia.
“If he had gone somewhere where they had a better coach and a better team, I really think Murray could have been an All-American,” said Kirvin, who played his college basketball at Xavier. “Columbia was the wrong school at the wrong time. But he was a great shooter, probably the best of all of us coming through at that time, and his induction is long overdue. Some people may have forgotten about him, but those of us who grew up around that same time, we remember him.”
After college, Melton went into the Army for six months, returned home and worked at the General Electric Company for five years.
“I didn’t like working for other people, so I quit GE and started my own business teaching people at country clubs how to play bridge,” he said. “I always liked cards, and I loved playing poker.”
In 1982, Melton headed to Las Vegas and worked in the casino industry for 25 years. For much of that time, he was a dealer for the World Series of Poker. He has been married twice and both of his wives are deceased. Melton had stepchildren but none of his own, and the only member of his immediate family alive is a sister living in Phoenix.
“I have no family back in Schenectady, and the last time I was there was 1994,” he said. “The weather here is so nice I don’t like going anywhere else, but I’m going to get there for this ceremony. I’ve had some health issues lately, but I’m going to do all I can to get there. I’m really looking forward to it.”