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Darrell Huckaby: High school basketball has been a love affair through the years

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

I have been having basketball withdrawals. I realize that the college season ended Monday night in the Georgia Dome and that the NBA is still playing -- and will be until the 4th of July. But I haven't watched an NBA game since Larry Bird retired and my NCAA bracket was busted two weeks ago -- so I didn't really get excited about the Final Four.

But I have really missed high school basketball over the past month. I hadn't seen too many games the past couple of years, but this year I rediscovered the joys of following a team from the opening tip of the season through the end of the state tournament. It brought back precious memories -- and now I miss it.

I was reminded of how much I miss high school basketball -- and how big a part of my life it once was -- when Gil Gainer introduced me to preach at the First Methodist Church in Covington on Sunday. During his quite flattering introduction, Gil began waxing nostalgic about the glory days of Newton County basketball and my small part in the mighty Ram dynasty. There were a lot of old Newton County people in attendance and I could tell from their expressions that they enjoyed Gil's remarks as much as I did.

Truth be known, I stopped telling people about Newton County basketball years ago because people who weren't there to see it for themselves never believed me anyway. I found myself reflecting about those days Sunday afternoon. I hope the people I spoke to were reflecting on Thomas' skepticism, but I had reflected on that all week. So I thought about Newton County basketball and all the people who made it special.

Ronald Bradley and his partner Jan were, of course, the architects of the Ram Dynasty. You can call it what you want. When a team wins 428 games against only 68 losses in 17 years -- including a world record 129 straight home wins -- that's a dynasty. Of course there were so many great players -- and the whole community supported the team, including so many wonderful people like Sheriff Henry Odum Jr., Frank Christian, Walker Harris, Miss Pearl Young -- gracious, there were some wonderful folks who made the people who wore the Ram blue feel so special.

Late Sunday afternoon, I remembered that there is a special place to go to revisit those special days -- or learn about them for the very first time. Those idyllic days of the 1950s, '60s and early '70s can now be relived anytime -- thanks to the magic of the Internet. A couple of years ago, Coach Bradley's four kids were trying to figure out what to give the dad who has everything for Christmas. They came up with a doozy of an answer. They created a website, www.coachronaldbradley.com. It is a work of a art and a treasure trove of pictures, records, stories, videos and all sorts of other information. Like Newton County basketball in the 1960s -- you'll have to see it for yourself to believe it.

I went there Sunday night, as I said, and clicked on the link marked "1950s." Dr. Johnny Capes and Miss Cynthia Harris were looking me right in the eye. I never realized that Dr. John had a unibrow 54 years before Anthony Davis made it popular.

Another click brought me to a story by Bob Greer -- he of Blab Slab fame -- and a picture of Billy Shaw and Sherry Jefferies holding great big trophies, spoils of victory in that year's Newton Invitational Tournament. Sherry Jefferies was astonishingly beautiful. She still is, for the record -- and she and Billy would later become husband and wife. I wonder if Bob Greer realized that would happen when he paired them in that photograph. He must have, because the box scores accompanying the article showed that Shaw scored 21 points in the championship game while Sherry only scored 4. There must have been some other reason she was in the photo.

Of course, future Women's Basketball Hall of Famer Betty Faith Jaynes was listed as a guard in the box score and was scoreless. In those days, the guards weren't allowed to cross center court, much less shoot.

Next I turned to the '60s and found stories and photographs and even movies of so many people who were such important parts of my life. Tim Christian, as well as Wallace and Greg. Stan Harris and Tony. The Rutledge boys. I could go on all night about those great players -- and great people. I even found a couple of Blab Slab articles. I learned from one that "The longest sentence in the English Language is 'I do.'" I also learned that "Legs are extremely important appendages for baseball players and girls who are trying to get to first base." Bob Greer! You sly old dog, you!"

The website goes beyond the Newton County days, of course. You really should spend some time there. You can thank me later. And if you get to watch the film of the Decatur game in the early 1970s -- that guy on the sidelines going absolutely berserk -- well, that would be me, and I am not ashamed to admit it. In fact, I would love the opportunity to be on that sideline just one more time. It was a little slice of hoop heaven.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.