helped tremendously," Weldon recalls. "I played
basketball and I got serious about academics. That year, we
won the New England championship." Setting his sights
on college, his former Ferris guidance counselor told him
about a community college basketball team in Mercer County
that was doing great things under Coach Howie Landa, whose
reputation was spreading with each passing season.
paid Landa a visit. "Of course, son, you can try out
for the team," Weldon recalls Landa telling him. "I
never had a father figure. Howie took me under his wing. He
was a good coach; I was a good listener. I became a better
basketball player and a better person."
Weldon proved a stellar addition to the roster. During his
first season (1971-72), the Viking were still practicing out
of storefronts and playing on outdoor courts around Trenton.
But that didn't stop Weldon from excelling. He was the team's
leading scorer, averaging 25 points per game. The following
season the college moved to the West Windsor campus and the
team finally had a gymnasium to call home. Maybe it was the
boost they needed. The Vikings won their first national championship
"It was unbelievable," Weldon says all these years
later. "We played against the home team in Hutchinson,
KS, in front of 10,000 fans. "Coach told us to pretend
they were cheering for us, but we were a bunch of young guys
from Trenton. It was pretty intimidating."
But then again, not so much. The Vikings dominated, winning
the game by 20 points. "There was nothing left to question,"
Weldon says, still clearly satisfied with the results. Weldon
was named a First Team All-American and Player of the Year.
He was invited to play at the World University Games that
summer, the only junior college player on a squad that included
a number of players who went on to the NBA. They traveled
to Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria, advancing all the
way to the final in Russia - and won a gold medal.
"This was a chance that was given to me. I took advantage
of it," Weldon says. "Basketball was a tool to get
someone interested in me. But education is more important
than sports. You can get injured, but you always have your
After taking more than 60 credits of Liberal Arts courses
at Mercer, Weldon transferred to Boston College where, according
to the school's website, he had "a tremendous impact
on the [basketball] program's fortunes. BC was mired in a
four-year postseason drought when he arrived from junior college
and breathed life into a listless 11-14 team. In Weldon's
first year, the 1973-74 Eagles improved to 21-9 and reached
the NIT quarterfinals. The following year, he served as team
captain. Led by his speed and defensive play, BC again recorded
a 21-9 mark and reached the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16."
Weldon was inducted into the BC Hall of Fame in 1991.
After earning his bachelor's degree in Sociology, Weldon played
in the pro ranks in the Continental Basketball Association
and in Venezuela. By the late 1970s, he had found his way
back to MCCC. At that point, Landa was taking a break from
coaching and Weldon was offered the job, along with a position
as an admissions counselor.
"Howie and I would brainstorm. The team did pretty well;
we won some titles," Weldon says modestly.
Weldon learned a whole bunch of behind-the-scenes skills as
well, including mentoring players who were living on their
own for the first time. But after four seasons, Weldon decided
the commitment was more than he could juggle as he began to
focus on his own family and advancing his career.
Weldon was hired as the manager of the Trenton Housing Authority,
where he has remained ever since. For the past ten years,
he has been manager of residence services and enjoys creating
and maintaining connections with the community's residents,
especially its young people. "I point them towards programs
and resources that will help them develop life skills."
He makes sure they know about Mercer's Youth College - Upward
Bound, SMILE, and Talent Search - programs that help teens
prepare for a future that makes academics priority number
His own humble beginnings have made his message resonate powerfully.
"I am pleased to talk to young people. When I see kids
get up early, go to school, I do my best with them."
Basketball continues to be a constant in Weldon's life. Two
of his three children took to the sport; one of his two daughters
played for Goldey Beacom College in Wilmington, Delaware,
where she earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees,
and his son just finished his freshman season at Neumann University.
When the time was right, Weldon got back into coaching. For
seven years through 2011, he served as assistant coach for
girls basketball at Trenton Catholic Academy; during that
time, the team won five state championships. Last spring,
Weldon was named head coach for boys basketball, taking over
the Iron Mikes from long-time coach Fred Falchi. In a press
conference after his selection, Weldon said, "I bring
a whole lot of experience to the job and basketball is in
my heart. We're going to continue to win here, plus we're
going to make sure academically every one of our players is
put in the best situation possible."
Good to his word, Weldon coached the Iron Mikes to a 9-0 season
in the Catholic League and a championship in the Mercer County
Tournament this year, beating Ewing in an exciting comeback
in the final. The team also advanced in the state tournament
and finished 25-5.
Weldon's successes can be traced back to a combination of
talent, smarts and people like his former coach, Howie Landa,
who cared about him. So, it's really not surprising that Mel
Weldon is where he is today - helping young people get a good
start in life just as he did, through basketball and education.