Cardinal Stritch’s boys’ basketball players probably knew they had no shot of winning City League titles back in the 1980s.
That’s when Joe Gajdostik and his Cardinals teammates regularly went up against teams from Macomber, Scott, St. John’s Jesuit and Central Catholic. Gajdostik, who graduated as Stritch’s all-time leading scorer in 1986, remembers going up against future Division I college athletes on an almost nightly basis.
“I played against (Scott’s) Melvin Newbern, who played at Minnesota,” Gajdostik recalled. “Jim Jackson was a freshman at Macomber when I was a senior. He was a stud. Unbelievable player.”
|Left: Joe Gajdostik & Family, L-R Karli, Alexa, Joe, Mary and Kelsey.
Right: Joe Gajdostik goes for the dunk while playing for Tri-State University.
Gajdostik said it was “difficult, to say the least” to compete in the CL in the ‘80s, when Stritch was easily the smallest school in the league. The Cardinals left the CL for the smaller Toledo Area Athletic Conference in 1995.
“We struggled, definitely,” Gajdostik said, “We had some wins against Start here and there, and Woodward. There really wasn’t a weak team in the City League like you see now. We beat St. Francis for the first time in school history my junior year. We struggled against the Scotts, Macombers and Centrals.
“Come tournament time, that totally prepared you for tournaments. That was kind of the main thing. We didn’t fare too well in the City, but come tournament time we did fairly well.”
Gajdostik was a wiry 6-foot-4, 190-pound forward/center on coach Pat McGhee’s squads in the mid-’80s, before high schools adopted the 3-point line. He mostly played inside and threw down two-handed dunks whenever he had the opportunity.
Gajdostik averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds a game his junior year and was named first-team All-CL and all-district. A year later he averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds and was voted first-team all-league, District 7 Player of the Year and third-team All-Ohio. He finished with 1,325 points in three years.
Gajdostik was inducted into the Cardinal Stritch Hall of Fame on Dec. 21, along with three other individuals and the Cardinals’ 1975 football team. Now 45 and living in Temperance, Mich., Gajdostik is married with three daughters and works for GEM Energy as a property manager.
Gajdostik came from a family of athletes, the second oldest of five brothers and sisters who all played sports in high school. He earned nine varsity letters at Stritch - three in basketball, three in baseball and three in golf.
“Golf kind of started off as a hobby,” Gajdostik said. “My older brother, who is two years older than me, was an excellent golfer. We all played sports growing up. When the street froze over, you went out and played hockey. When I started at Stritch I was kind of focused on basketball and the coach (McGhee) steered me away from football. He just didn’t want me to get hurt. Golf was a natural thing to do in the fall.”
Gajdostik was a pitcher and center fielder on the baseball team and was a first-team All-CL outfielder as a senior. He said he wished he would have stuck with baseball after high school.
“I look back on it and tell people I wish back then somebody would have shook me and steered me in that direction,” Gajdostik said. “I had bigger (college) offers in baseball than basketball, but basketball was my passion. I wouldn’t say I regret it, but I should have looked at baseball a little closer than basketball. I had a great career with basketball in high school and college, but I could have done a little better in baseball if I had my eyes open.”
Gajdostik went on to a stellar basketball career at Tri-State University (now Trine University) in Angola, Ind. He bulked up to 210 pounds and started at wing for four years, finishing his career as the Trojans’ all-time leading scorer, with 2,385 points.
“Tri-State was still NAIA then, and the competition was similar to Stritch,” Gajdostik said. “We played several Mid-American Conference schools each year, a lot of the big schools. We also played Heidelberg, Siena Heights, Concordia College. I kind of fell into my own there because we had guys on the team who were 6-7, 6-8 and I didn’t have to fill into that role as a post player.”
Gajdostik found that the college 3-point line suited his game just fine. He was a third-team NAIA All-America as a senior.
“Once I got in college, there was a 3-point line and that’s where a majority of my scoring took place,” he said. “I honed my skills as an outside shooter. At Stritch, being 6-4, I was the biggest guy and was kind of forced to play inside. It wasn’t really where I wanted to play, but you do what you gotta do.”
Gajdostik married his wife, Jodi (Madrzykowski), a 1985 Stritch grad, in 1990 and they have three daughters: Kelsey, 22; Karli, 18; and Alexa, 9. He was nominated for the Cardinal Stritch Hall of Fame by his wife’s uncle, Ron Zak, who was the school’s athletic director for many years.
“When you see other guys going in (the Hall of Fame), to me that was never a big deal,” Gajdostik said. “It’s not my personality to go after something like that. It’s hard for me to talk about myself or have other people talk about me. You hear it through high school and college, and I wasn’t that type of person. It was a team sport. To be always singled out, that was always hard. But when this finally came about, I was very honored and happy that it finally happened.”