Ron Hrubala

Year: 1968 - 1971
Position: Forward
Hometown: East Hartford, CT

Ron Hrubala was a Forward for the UConn Huskies from 1968 – 1971. He’s a member of the UConn Basketball All Century Ballot, and is one of only three players in UConn history to average double figures in scoring and rebounding in every varsity season. I had the opportunity to talk to Ron in January 2005, about his basketball experiences, post-collegiate career experiences, and his continued involvement with the University of Connecticut.

Ron began playing basketball as a youth when he was in the 5th or 6th grade. The kids from East Hartford went to the gym at Hockanum School every Saturday morning to play basketball. When they weren’t at the gym the kids would go to Martin Park to play pick up games even if they had to shovel snow from the court during the winter months. “These were great sources of playing basketball, and getting involved with other kids.”

When Ron reached high school he went to George T. Penney High School in East Hartford, CT. The school was relatively new; Ron’s senior class was the first class to graduate that went all four years. During high school, Ron’s basketball team at Penney played against all the catholic high schools, South Catholic, Northwest Catholic, and East Catholic, which was the rival, and the team that Ron seemed to have his best individual performances against.

When Ron was thinking about what college to attend he applied to Cornell, Trinity, University of Rhode Island, UConn, and the University of Pennsylvania. “I really wanted a strong education. I didn’t have any visions of grandeur when it came to basketball.” When it was time to make his decision, Ron had it narrowed down to UConn, Trinity, and Middlebury, which was also interested in him. Burr Carlson, the UConn basketball coach helped Ron’s decision making process. Burr said to Ron, “There are as many millionaires that have graduated from Trinity as have graduated from UConn or Middlebury, so what, Ron Hrubala, is your argument, that Trinity is better or Middlebury is better than UConn? Do they have a bigger library? No they don’t.  More teachers? No they don’t. So bottom line is if you’re interested in a good quality education, UConn, Trinity, or Middlebury, you get the same results if you put the effort in.”  “After I bought into that argument it just became a question of basketball, and obviously I grew up in East Hartford listening to every UConn game on the radio, and attending UConn games so my decision was UConn.”

When Ron reached UConn, freshman were not allowed to play varsity. “I had a very good career, and I was there at the right time, and it kind of allowed me to be part of a tremendous history. The timing was right that someone with my ability was able to play a lot, be in the starting lineup my sophomore year, and I was the most valuable player of the team that year. I played pretty much every minute of every game with the exception of when I was in foul trouble.”

During Ron’s junior year, Coach Dee Rowe became head coach at UConn. “Coach Rowe is just a wonderful, wonderful man. He was a terrific coach, and he had a very nice tenure at UConn.” The most memorable game for Ron while at UConn was the famous slow down game against the University of Rhode Island when UConn won the Yankee Conference Championship with a score of 35 – 32. Another memory Ron enjoys from his time at UConn is being proud to have helped Coach Rowe in recruiting Tony Hanson. “I went to Waterbury, and talked to Tony, and told him that I thought him attending UConn would be a good thing, and the rest is history. Tony was a prize in-state recruit that UConn was happy to get.” Ron was honored to be a member of the selection committee for the hiring of Coach Calhoun.

After graduating from UConn with a Bachelors Degree in Business, Ron spent the summer of 1971 vacationing in Europe. In September when he came back, he played basketball in some recreational leagues, and began focusing on his career. During the summer of his junior year at UConn, Ron had the opportunity to work for an insurance agency. Now back from his summer vacation he officially joined the insurance agency, Wolff-Zackin Association, Inc., and has been there ever since. He started out in insurance sales, two years out of college he became a principal stockholder/owner of the agency, and later became president. Starting out with about 11 employees, Wolff-Zackin grew to about 60 employees over 30 years. In April 2001 the agency merged with Webster Insurance, owned by Webster Financial. Ron is starting his fourth year with Webster Insurance, and said that his career with Wolff-Zackin, and now with Webster, has absolutely been a happy 35 years.

When asked about his thoughts on how UConn basketball has changed over the years Ron said, “When I went to UConn we were a regional university. We played in the Yankee Conference, it wasn’t the Big East, but it was our conference. Today UConn is the prominent school on everyone’s schedule. UConn is trying to win National titles. The Yankee Conference was UConn’s claim to fame when I was there. Today the kids are quicker, stronger, and faster, and the speed the game is played at is unbelievable.”

Ron’s thought on the current UConn team: “I think that if the basketball team that’s on the floor this year all come back next year; I think Jim Calhoun would be the first to tell you that he thinks he’ll make a run at the national title.”

Ron is an avid UConn fan. He’s been to see UConn at the Big East Tournament before it was held at Madison Square Garden. He was in Minnesota when the women won their first national title, in St. Petersburg, Florida to see the men win their first national title, and this past December he went to Detroit, Michigan to see the UConn football team win its first bowl game. He has been on the board of the UConn Club for many years, a supporter of the Division of Athletics and the Wolff-Zackin Natatorium is home to the University of Connecticut men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs.

Ron lives in Ellington, CT with his wife, Peggy, who he met shortly after high school. Peggy has been an English teacher at Rockville High School for many years, and oversees an instructional basketball recreation program in Ellington for grades K-8. They have three children, Kent, age 24, Ashley, age 21, and Spencer, age 18. The kids have all played many years of basketball, soccer, and track. One year Ashley finished 16th in the country on her Amateur Athletic Union basketball team. She later suffered a foot injury that curtailed her career or she might have had the opportunity to play basketball in college. All three kids were accepted to go to college at UConn but opted to go to other colleges. Kent is a graduate of Clemson University, and currently works in sales in Atlanta, Georgia. Ashley is a junior at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, and Spencer is a senior at Ellington High School hoping to attend Virginia Tech University to study civil engineering.

Ron ended our conversation by saying, “Living in Ellington, so close to UConn, has provided my family the opportunity to attend many UConn sports events through the years. We aren’t that far away so it’s wonderful to have it in your back yard. My kids have been to so many games, and have grown up on UConn events. It’s been a wonderful run.”