When asked several years ago by a reporter how he would like to be remembered as an athlete, Bill Kurisko replied: “Just as a good, all-around player.”
When Rockland County fans let their minds drift back to Kurisko’s heyday with the Nanuet Golden Knights, they remember a great all-around player. Whether he was swishing long-range jumpers for Ralph Rogo’s basketball team; rifling home goals from impossible angles for Dale Abeling’s lacrosse team; or scoring touchdowns in almost every fashion imaginable for Rich Conklin’s football team, Kurisko established a record of overall achievement that compares favorably with just about any scholastic athlete in Rockland.
When The Journal-News asked readers in 1988 to vote on the top athletes ever at each Rockland high school, Kurisko received the most votes among Nanuet male athletes. Granted it was only a year after he had graduated and his exploits were still fresh in people’s minds, but a convincing case can be made for Bill, the youngest of the nine Kurisko children.
ï® In basketball, Kurisko is the all-time Rockland County scoring leader with 1,444 points over three varsity seasons (1985-87). He is also the Rockland record holder for seasonal scoring average, pouring in 30.1 points per game in the 1986-87 season.
ï® In lacrosse, during his junior year in 1986, he set Rockland records for points in a game, 11 (which he accomplished twice) and points in a season, 108. As a senior, he scored 75 goals in 12 games before an ankle injury ended his season, and wound up with career totals of 238 goals and 65 assists. He earned high school All-America honors as a midfielder his senior year, and gained All-Section accolades three straight years.
ï® In football, he made second-team All-New York State as a safety his senior year, and set the school record for career interceptions with 17. On offense, he was switched from running back to quarterback midway through his junior year and became a feared double threat as a sprint-out and option quarterback. He scored touchdowns in almost every conceivable way – kickoff and punt returns, and running, catching and throwing the ball.
Helping his team win was always Kurisko’s top priority and more often than not they did. Drive and determination are intangibles that cannot be taught, and those instincts took over for Kurisko when a game was in the balance.
Examples abound to illustrate his take-charge capabilities. For instance, in a lacrosse game against North Rockland his senior year, Nanuet was trailing by a goal with just three seconds left in regulation. But Kurisko fired in a shot from about 40 feet out while lying on his side to send the game into overtime. “When we needed a goal under pressure, he would get it,” Abeling once said. “He never quit … he’d find some way to pull it out.”
In basketball, his favorite sport, the 6-foot-3 shooting guard led the 1986-87 Nanuet squad to an 11-game winning streak and a share of the League 7 championship, the Golden Knights’ first league title since the 1970s. that season included a 43-point game against Byram Hills and a 39-point game against Eastchester during which he was removed midway through the third quarter because Nanuet was well ahead. Rogo, Nanuet’s coach at that time, believed Kurisko could have broken the then-county record of 60 points had he been allowed to remain in the game.
After graduating from Nanuet in 1987, Kurisko enjoyed a successful four-year career at Wagner College, a Division I school. He was a two-time, first-team All-Northeast Conference selection and a New York All-Metropolitan second-team selection as a senior, when he averaged 19.6 points, 6 rebounds, 6.5 assists per game. Kurisko totaled 1,554 points and 455 assists as a four-year starter for the Seahawks.
He then embarked on a 10-year pro basketball odyssey that included stops in Georgia, North Carolina, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia. From 1991 to 1993, he averaged 16 points, 5 assists and 2.5 steals per game for the Atlanta Eagles of the U.S. Basketball League. After being drafted in the first round by the Raleigh Bull Frogs of the Global Basketball Association, Kurisko played one year for Raleigh, averaging 13 points and 5 rebounds a game.
He then had a tryout with the New York Knicks, playing six preseason games before being cut. Kurisko then decided to export his game to non-U.S. outposts, starting with the Halifax (Nova Scotia) Windjammers in the National Basketball League of Canada, where he averaged 15 points and 3.5 assists per game in the 1994 season. That was followed by one season with Stuttgart-based BG Ludwigburg in the German Bundesliga’s first division. Kurisko averaged 17 points per game and made the All-Star team.
In 1996, Kurisko’s European travels took him to Sweden, where his one-season stint with the Uppsala Gators resulted in a league-leading total in steals and 20.5 points per game. The most recent stop in Kurisko’s round the world roundball adventures was Saudi Arabia. In four highly successful seasons there, he was player of the year twice; the league’s high scorer and best foreign player once each; averaged 25, 32, 25.1 and 27.2 points per game in four seasons; and helped
lead his teams to the national and Persian Gulf championships in three out of four years.
Heady stuff for a kid from Nanuet. These days Kurisko, who is 33, lives in Congers and works in the sales industry. He and his wife Mary Knoll, have a 3-year-old son, William Jr.