In 1952, Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach was asked who were the top three collegiate big men in the nation. Kentucky's Cliff Hagan, a future NBA star and Hall of Famer, was one, he said. Mark Workman, the 6-8 All American at West Virginia, was second. The third was neither a future Hall of Famer nor even an All-American, but a history major at Georgetown named Bill Bolger.
Like most Georgetown prospects of the classic era, Bolger honed his skills on the streets of New York, where he starred at Manhattan's Xavier HS. His impact on the Georgetown varsity was immediate, scoring in double figures in each of his first four games. Despite giving up some height in the pivot, Bolger scored 20 or more points in five of his final 11 games that season, narrowly ceding the scoring title to fellow sophomore Barry Sullivan.
With the team settling into their new home at McDonough Gym, the 1951-52 Hoyas looked to the Class of 1953 to lift the team from its seven game losiong streak to end the previous season. With Bolger leading the way, the Hoyas turned an 8-14 record into a 15 win season. Bolger scored in double figures in 22 of 25 games, including 25 versus Dayton, 29 versus Wake Forest, and a then-school record 38 versus Mount St. Mary's. His 435 points that season was a school record, while his average was the highest in 34 years.
The only step remaining for the class was a trip to the post-season, and Bolger was up for the task. With fellow high scorer Barry Sullivan having left the team for military service, Bolger led his team in scoring for 11 of 20 games and scored in double figures in 18 of them. With strong efforts early in the season versus Seattle (29 points) and Rhode Island (26), he saved his best efforts for the stretch run. His 17 points against St. Joe's and 23 against NCAA-bound Fordham tipped the scales for the Hoyas its first ever NIT bid and its first post-season invitation in ten years.
Bolger scored 20 points, a team high, in a 92-79 loss to Louisville in the NIT. Five Hoyas fouled out in the game, including Bolger, allowing the Cardinals to win the game by shooting 36 for 52 from the foul line.
Bolger graduated as the school's career leading scorer and only the second player to post 1,000 or more points--while Tom O'Keefe had done it in four seasons, Bolger did it in three. Bolger's stats may have even been stronger had the University kept full statistics on rebounds. Rebounds were not an official statistic until 1953-54; a 1978 HOYA feature on the team claimed that Bolger may have averaged as many as 17 rebounds a game in 1953.
Bill Bolger was the scoring leader among a group of classmates from the Class of 1953 that formed one of Georgetown's greatest all time recruiting classes. Of the six members of the class that played three years varsity for the Hoyas, four were drafted in the NBA. Of the four, only Bolger played in the NBA--after being drafted by the the Milwaukee Hawks, he served a season with the Baltimore Bullets in 1953-54 before beginning a business career. For his efforts, Bill Bolger was selected among the inaugural candidates to the Georgetown University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1958.