Born: June 12, 1916
Died: October 27, 2003
Town: Scotch Plains
Henry G. Beenders was born in the Dutch town of Haarlem on June 12, 1916 and moved to the United States with his family in 1924. After a stop in Brooklyn the Beenders settled in Scotch Plains. Hank, tall and athletic, was drawn to basketball. He was the star center of the North Plainfield High hoops squad.
After high school, Hank went to work and continued to play ball on local teams. In 1939, he was recruited by coach Clair Bee to play for Long Island University. At 6’6” he was one of the top centers in the college game. In 1940–41, the Blackbirds went 23–2 in the regular season and earned a berth at the National Invitation Tournament. LIU had won the NIT two years earlier. They won their second title by beating Westminster, Seton Hall and Ohio.
Hank was named team captain the following year. During his three varsity seasons, the Blackbirds went 69–9. He graduated with a degree in accounting.
Hank enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II and achieved the rank of captain. After being discharged, he signed with the Providence Steamrollers of the Basketball Association of America—forerunner of the NBA. He was the league’s first foreign-born player. As a 30-year-old rookie in 1946–47, he was second on the team in scoring behind Ernie Calverley with 12.3 points per game.
Midway through the following season, Providence sold Hank to the Philadelphia Warriors. He backed up Chick Halbert on the first-place Warriors and helped them reach the finals against the Baltimore Bullets. Philadelphia lost in 6 games. Technically, Hank was the first foreign-born player to appear in the NBA Finals.
After the playoffs, Hank and Chick Halbert were traded to the Boston Celtics for Ed Sadowski. Hank played 8 games with the Celtics before calling it a career. He went to work as an international sales executive for Henry Isaacs, a clothing exporter in New York City and stayed with the company until he retired in the 1980s. He lived in Bridgewater until his death at age 87 in 2003. Hank was enshrined in the LIU Hall of Fame in 2008.