When duty called, Ken Engles was there, serving three years for his country in World War II. And when Georgetown called in 1945, Engles was there, too.
Engles arrived at Georgetown in 1939, a two sport athlete from Staten Island's Port Richmond HS. A one year letter winner at football, and two years in basketball at Georgetown, Engles enlisted in the U.S. Army on the last day of classes in 1942, serving three years and earning a Purple heart for wounds in battle. He returned to Georgetown in the fall of 1945 to finish his studies, but soon found himself the unlikely role as a player-coach for the varsity basketball team.
The University had suspended intercollegiate competition in 1943, and sought to return the campus to normalcy with a return to sports. The football coaches were still enlisted, and basketball coach Elmer Ripley had left for Columbia in 1944 and had accepted a one year coach to Notre Dame the following year. When Engles inquired whether a basketball team would be sponsored that season, officials asked him, as one of the few seniors with any past experience, to lead an interim team for an abbreviated 1945-46 schedule.
Tryouts for the team returned 15 players to open the season, while as many as 25 suited up over the 20 game schedule. The Hoyas played only three games outside the region, concentrating instead on a variety of local and military opponents. Engles played in 16 of the 20 games, finishing second in scoring.
Engles graduated in 1946 and turned the program back to his college mentor, Elmer Ripley. He died in Staten Island in 1990.
Ken Engles' grandson, Jim Engles, is the current coach at Columbia.