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Harrison “Honey” Fitch, a New Haven native and the first Black player in UConn basketball history, will be inducted in the Huskies of Honor program Saturday at Gampel Pavilion.
STORRS — Nearly ninety years after Harrison “Honey” Fitch was subjected to an infamous racist incident as a UConn men’s basketball player in 1934, he took his place among legends of the program.
Fitch, of Hillhouse High in New Haven the first Black basketball player at UConn, officially became the 27th men’s member of the Huskies of Honor program Saturday at Gampel Pavilion. Harrison Brooks Fitch Jr. was at UConn Saturday to accept the honor on his father’s behalf at halftime of the Huskies’ game against Xavier.
“The response at the University of Connecticut has been truly extraordinary,” Brooks Fitch, who goes by his middle name, said during a press conference before the game. “Going back to a racist incident in 1934, UConn stepped up in a big way and that’s what is happening in 2022. The way this happened has been through a collaborative effort with the University of Connecticut. My father was very accomplished in terms of a number of things. He was certainly a star athlete. But he also was able to lead and work with teams. And the team that was really developed, not just the basketball team, but the team with the University of Connecticut students with my father, really performed at what I consider a championship level.”
On Jan. 27, 1934, UConn, then Connecticut State, played a game at Coast Guard, which had refused to play if Fitch participated. After a delay and negotiations, the game did take place but Connecticut’s coach, John Heldman, did not put Fitch in the game.
UConn students were outraged that the team did not refuse to play, calling for Heldman and athletic director Roy Guyer to be fired. Both left the university in 1936.
Asked Saturday about it taking so long for UConn to recognize his father’s contributions on and off the court, Brooks Fitch said, “Yes, you can look back and say it should not have taken so long and that is absolutely true. But this happened for a reason. And this happening 90 years after he entered the University of Connecticut is very significant. It’s been a long time, but the reality is, this is the right time.”
Honey Fitch graduated from Hillhouse High, where he played three sports, in 1932. He transferred from UConn to American International College in Springfield and went on to a long career in research with the Monsanto Corporation. A father of four, he died in 1984.
“He would be very please that this will be there forever and provide a framework for others,” Brooks Fitch said of his father’s name being permanently affixed to a prestigious Gampel wall. “What he talked about was the experience with the University of Connecticut. He did not dwell on the negative because he endured, like a lot of our ancestors, a lot of negativity. At that time, there was no such thing as micro-aggression. There was nothing micro at all. He was very pleased that at the University of Connecticut, he had received a totally different acceptance … and the fact that the student body stood by him for so long. He talked about that. He talked about the character of UConn, the character of the people.”
Honey Fitch’s grandfather, William Henry Singleton, was a slave who escaped seven times, reached Union-occupied territory and recruiting 1,000 troops to join the Union army during the Civil War. He later settled in New Haven and became a minister and entrepreneur. Honey Fitch was raised in New Haven as one of eight children.
“He referenced the environment he was in in New Haven,” Brooks Fitch said. “Hillhouse really was a village. He was encouraged by Hillhouse, the formality of Hillhouse, his teammates at Hillhouse. But it was a village that was nurturing and uplifting. He was a star, but he believed in a team concept. Hillhouse helped form the foundation for who he is and who he was at the time.”
UConn players and coaches were aware of what was taking place Saturday, who Fitch was, why he was important to honor.
“We had a cahnce in the locker room as a staff to talk about the social signifcance of it and how big of a day this was here, with the son here, the history of it,” coach Dan Hurley said. “It was pretty remarkable. I’m just proud. Obviously a great move by the school and the athletic department by putting him in the ring.”
Teams were in the locker room for Saturday’s ceremoney but plays chatted with family members after the game.
Sitting with R.J. Cole for a press conference, Tyrese Martin said, “After they game he came up to us and wanted us to go in [the locker room] knowing that if his father were alive we’d be his favorite plaeyrs. It mean a lot.”
Mike focuses on feature writing for Hearst Connecticut Media with a concentration on UConn and college sports. He joined Hearst in Feb. 2021 after 21 years at the Hartford Courant, including three as the lead sports columnist. He has covered all three major UConn sports beats: men’s basketball (2005-11), women’s basketball (2017-18) and football (2016-18).

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