Hyatt, the catalyst of Uniontown’s 1925 state championship team, developed his considerable basketball skills under the watchful eye of his father DeWitt Hyatt, former physical education instructor at the local YMCA.
During the 1924-25 season Hyatt, then a junior, led the Red Raiders to a WPIAL title and into the national scholastic tournament in Chicago. The “Five Horseman” as the Raiders were known defeated Greeley, CO in the first round 26-11. In the quarterfinals the Raiders downed Lake View, IL 29-11. In the semifinals against a much taller team from Wichita, KS the horsemen were defeated 42-21. In 33 games played that season the horsemen were 31-2. In addition to the loss to Wichita they lost to the Pitt Freshman team.
In an era of center jumps and possession basketball the Red Raiders tallied 1,429 points and allowed 615 by the opposition. During 13 games of the 33 game slate Uniontown went over the 50 point mark.
Hyatt paced the Raiders in scoring with 429 points and garnered All State honors; other starters on the team were Cecil Connelly, who paired with Hyatt at forward, Les Cohen at center, and captain Joe Hackney and Markie Rankin at the guard spots. The sixth man was J.S. “Bus” Albright.
The 1926 team repeated as WPIAL champs, but lost in the state tournament.
“We had great coaching by Abe Everhart Sr,” Hyatt would say years later in an interview. “The game has changed drastically; I could play in any era. Back in the day a man 6-1 was considered a giant, but now there are a lot of taller players. Also the basketball is made better and is rounder and not lopsided and shoots truer. In my day it was a matter of a team scoring 30 points, but now an individual player scores 30 points and it is not uncommon.”
Hyatt went from Uniontown to play at the University of Pittsburgh and was a three-time All America selection in 1927-28-29. Hyatt sparked Doc Carlson’s Panthers to an undefeated campaign in 1927-28 going 21-0; they went 16-5 in 1928-29 and posted a record of 23-2 in 1929-30. This was long before the NCAA instituted a postseason tournament to declare an official national champion; the Helms foundation, which also selected All-America teams, selected one team as the best in the land. Pitt’s 1927-28 and 1929-30 teams were accorded this honor.
The 6-0 foot Hyatt nicknamed “Clipper” led the nation in scoring twice during his collegiate career. He scored 880 points during his career and led the Panthers to a sparkling 60-7 record over three seasons. Hyatt was named to the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame and elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959.
“Naturally, I say Hyatt is the greatest basketball player I ever saw,” Carlson would opine in his later years. “He had the most deeply ingrained desire to play of anybody I ever met. Basketball w–as his whole life. Nothing else mattered. He would average 30-points a game today. I’ve never seen anybody who could compare to him.”
Hyatt and the 1928 Pitt squad provided Carlson with his greatest sports thrill.
“Notre Dame had us licked by nine points at the end of the half,” Carlson related in a Pittsburgh Press article. “But we managed to catch up. Hyatt tossed the winning field goal in the last few seconds. It was the only time Pitt was ahead during the game. The finish was something to see. Men cried, women fainted and I felt a warm spot on the top of my head – somebody was kissing my bald pate!”
Hyatt had two games that he remembered from his Pitt career.
“The Pitt , Montana State clash during the 1927,” Hyatt stated. “I scored the winning bucket in the last 10 seconds. We won 37-35 and I scored 27 points. The other game I remember is the Notre Dame game where I dropped in a bucket with a last second shot to give Pitt a 24-22 win.”
Hyatt spurned pro basketball after he graduated from Pitt.
“I turned down a chance to make $400 a month to play pro ball with the Cleveland Rosenblums.” Hyatt said. “The team included most of the Original Celtics˜ Joe Lapchick, Carl Husta, Nat Holman, Johnny Beckman, Dutch Dehnert and Davey Banks.
“I couldn’t see playing seven games six nights a week and everybody traveling in one car. The appeal in those days was California and I joined the Los Angeles A. C. and played with that team for one year. After that I played three years with the Diamond X Oilers and we won the National AAU title in 1933 and 1934.”
Hyatt played for Los Angeles Air Conditioning (1931), Diamond DX Oilers (where he won AAU national championships in 1933 and 1934, Universal Pictures (where in 1934-35 he was player-coach), Phillips 66ers (where as a player-coach from 1940-42 he led his team to his third AAU Championship in 1940), and the Denver Ambrose Legion (where in 1944 he lost in the AAU Men’s Championship game, 50-43).
Over the course of his AAU career he was named an AAU All American seven times and AAU All Star 5 times which was based on performance in the National AAU Men’s Champions tournament.
Hyatt served in the Army Air Corps as a second Lieutenant during World War II.
Although basketball was a game for two handed shooters in his day, Hyatt pioneered the one-handed shot as well as a shot with his left hand, another innovation of his time.
“Basketball is a different game, today.” Hyatt reiterated. “The ball is perfectly round today. It wasn’t in those days. And the kids today are adept at making a long one-handed jump shot. That shot has revolutionized the game. If you took a shot like that years ago you’d get the hook.”
A sportswriter once wrote of Hyatt, “this is a true test of an athlete’s greatness – even time can’t diminish his exploits.”
Looking back before his death Hyatt said the nicest thing that happened to him was his election into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. He was the first college star so honored.
Hyatt is also in the City of Pittsburgh Sports Hall of Fame and his plaque is on display at Mellon Arena.
After retiring from basketball Hyatt became Midwest sales manager for the Spalding Sporting Goods Company. He passed away in St. Petersburg, FL after a lengthy illness on May 8, 1978 at the age of 71.