Since I received a phone call early Thursday evening informing me of the tragic death of former Golden Knight John Trocki, I've heard many comments from the Erie sports community on his passing. One person said about the death of the 31-year old father: "I can't even begin to process it. It's sad on so many levels."
Most locals remember Trocki as a key player on winning teams at Prep and Gannon. Trocki tallied only 202 points in his three-year career at GU (he scorched the nets his freshman year at Pitt-Titusville), so why do so many GU fans fondly recall him? He was perhaps the ultimate hardhat-and-lunchpail guy -- using his broad shoulders to set screens, clog the lane, dive on the floor, and go after every rebound like the ball was a $1,000 bill.
My memories of "Troke" go back a little further than his Gannon/Prep days. I remember him as a somewhat gawky middle schooler from St. John's showing up at the Audi with a much shorter friend at some of our practices when I was a Golden Knight. When I was his age, if a Gannon player just acknowledged me I'd have talked about it for days (even if that player was the last guy on the bench). So, after a few practices, I shot baskets with John and his friend, and we talked a little bit about the game. His passion for basketball was evident back then, and it was evident every time he took the floor for Jerry Slocum.
The last time I saw Troke was at a Gannon game this past season. He was standing against the wall near the GU bench, next to his good friend and former teammate Aaron Garrity. He smiled, we shook hands, and he said he enjoyed this Gannon Hoops website. Going forward, I'll enjoy the Gannon games less knowing he won't be there.
My condolences to John's wife Sandy (Zirkle), her family, and the entire Trocki family.