Candid Close-up Q&A with WPIAL Hall of Fame inductee Tom Pipkins

Sunday, January 29, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Tom Pipkins was a fearless performer when he hit the basketball court during his heyday at Valley, and later Duquesne University.

Utilizing his impressive athleticism and an adept shooting touch, Pipkins racked up a WPIAL record 2,838 points from 1989-93 during a highly successful basketball career at Valley. The previous mark was set in 1955 by Wampum’s Don Hennon with 2,376 points.

Pipkins, a 6-foot-3 guard, broke the record with a one-handed, alley-oop dunk Jan. 29, 1993, at home in front of a packed house against South Park.

“That was one moment that stood out,” the former Vikings star recently recalled in the Tribune-Review. “The TV stations were there with all the big lights. It was surreal.”

Pipkins will be inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame this spring as part of the 2023 class. The list of inductees was revealed Jan. 18 in a news conference at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum inside the Heinz History Center.

Pipkins led Valley to a WPIAL championship in 1993, then went on to a stellar basketball career at Duquesne, where he finished as the third-leading scorer in program history with 1,828 points.

Currently a paraprofessional in the Quaker Valley School District, Pipkins lives in Beaver County with his wife, Danielle, and son, Thomas III, a sophomore on the Hopewell boys basketball team and an all-conference football player. Pipkins’ daughter, Jaqueline, 24, lives near Los Angeles.

Pipkins has held the WPIAL career scoring record for 30 years, but it is on the verge of being broken possibly as soon as the end of this month. Vinnie Cugini, a senior guard at Aquinas Academy, is expected to surpass 2,838 career points by then.

Pipkins, 47, already has been inducted into the Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame. We caught up with Pipkins last week to conduct a Candid Close-up interview while his WPIAL record was still intact.

What are your duties as a paraprofessional in the Quaker Valley School District?

Throughout my years working for QV, I have assisted students with all core subjects as well as in many electives that we offer. I have even facilitated our Mandarin Chinese program that we had with A.W. Beattie Career Center in Allison Park. We as educational paraprofessionals at QV do whatever needs to be done in order to assure our students are accommodated educationally as well as socially and emotionally. We assist teachers with students who may require additional aid with completing assignments or provide monitoring and personal care for our students in the Life Skills program, helping them to complete daily tasks.

How long have you worked in the QVSD?

I am into my 18th year here.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I mostly enjoy assisting students to become better prepared for life after high school graduation. As a son of a retired teacher, I believe it is part of my destiny to do so. I could have found myself in other professions as I worked in real estate and title management and in catering before my career path brought me into education.

What was your major at Duquesne?

I graduated from Duquesne with a major degree in communication studies while earning a minor in history.

Did you play any basketball after college?

I attempted to play in a few summer leagues to gain exposure for the scouts and agents. I even went to a couple pro camps (at Chicago and Erie) but never actually made it to the professional ranks following college.

Where did you work prior to your current position in the QVSD?

Prior to working at the high school, I worked at both Osborne and Edgeworth elementary schools.

What has it meant to you to be the WPIAL’s all-time leading scorer for the past 30 years?

It has been an honor to represent the WPIAL and to hold the record for a 30-year period of time.

What are some of your other favorite memories sports-wise?

I can remember playing my best game of little league football. It was one of the only games I got to play at that level before being moved up to the junior high team. I was able to return a punt 60 yards for a touchdown, run for a touchdown, throw a halfback pass for a touchdown and catch a touchdown — all in the same game. Also, my Little League baseball team won the championship in the final inning the following morning after our game versus the No. 1-ranked team was stopped due to darkness the previous evening. We went to the local Pizza Hut to celebrate. And it’s still memorable when I scored the game-winning shootout goal in a youth soccer all-star tournament game in the historic Civic Arena while playing before the Pittsburgh Spirit professional team, and when I used to make goals in games from midfield on a consistent basis. Finally, I can remember when I first dunked a basketball at the age of 12 before my first junior high basketball practice.

What was your favorite subject/class at Valley?

I really enjoyed my art, history, Spanish and chef’s training courses.

Did you have a least favorite subject/class?

I didn’t have a least favorite subject. I was able to gain something from all of the courses I took throughout my educational career.

Were you involved in any other extracurricular activities at Valley?

Yes, I was a member of the Cultural Club, which promoted inclusion and diversity through peer interaction groups and activities.

Who was the most influential person (or persons) in your athletic career?

I was fortunate to have an influential father, Tom Pipkins, Sr., who was a three-sport star at Clairton High School. He was the school’s first African-American to start at quarterback for the varsity, was a starting pitcher for the baseball team and was a standout guard for the basketball team. I was and still am a huge fan of Michael Jordan since his days at the University of North Carolina. I even tried to model my game after his.

Who was the best player that you played against in high school? …. in college?

During an AAU tournament in Las Vegas when I was in high school, I played against Randy Livingston, who was a guard out of Louisiana who just happened to be the 1993 National High School Player of the Year and played at LSU before (going to) the NBA. After my showing in that game, I began to receive national recognition, gaining attention in popular sports magazines as one of the “Top 6 shooting guards in the U.S.” There were others who I competed against who made it professionally as well and were great players.

Is there anything you would have changed in your high school and/or college careers?

Although I would have liked to have made it to the professional level in basketball, I would have also liked to have played football my junior and senior seasons to see if I could have made a career of it. I always loved the sport since as far back as I can remember.

Outside of basketball, what is your favorite sport?

Definitely football.

What is something that people may not know about you?

I was a soccer prodigy from age 7 to 12. I had to choose which sport I wanted to play between soccer and football when I was about to enter seventh grade with both being fall sports.

Do you have any hobbies?

I used to draw as a hobby. Now, I am into manually updating the team rosters for my NFL Madden game as I create players who are not yet on my game and attempt to make the game as real as possible. I rarely even play the actual game because I like to watch and inspect the players and game play to simulate the real-life game.

Do you like to travel? What has been your all-time favorite vacation?

I don’t get to travel much but was fortunate enough to go to Las Vegas a few times. There was a good atmosphere in that city.

What is the name of the last movie you saw? …. your all-time favorite movie?

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” was the last film I saw at the theater. “Flash Gordon” (1980) was one of my favorite movies of all-time.

Do you have a favorite all-time sports movie?

Still to this day, I can always watch the 1979 film “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.” My other all-time favorite sports movie is “Remember the Titans” (2000).

Do you watch much television? What is your favorite TV show?

If I’m watching TV, it’s usually the NFL Network or a game. Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of retro TV shows and films from the late 1960s through the early 1980s.

Do you have a favorite all-time book?

“To Kill a Mockingbird” was a favorite book of mine. Really enjoyed the film, as well.

What are three of your favorite foods?

I like crispy, seasoned chicken wings, a good fish sandwich and good Asian cuisine. Also, a chicken and seafood Alfredo usually hits the spot.

If you could have dinner with anyone past or present, who would you choose?

I would probably choose to have dinner with Michael Jordan because the menu would be infinite and I would most likely enjoy our conversation.


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