I am not much of a basketball fan. Who am I kidding? I really don’t enjoy it on any level. But there was a time that I did enjoy it. It’s funny how we change.
There was always a basketball goal at our house. The post and backboard were built from lumber where Mom worked at J.P. Haynes Lumber Co. I played for hours.
When I finally reached the sixth grade at North Canton Elementary, I was old enough to try out for the basketball team. We didn’t have middle schools, so if you made the team the first year there was a good chance you would get to play for three years.
There will be some of you that may not understand what I’m talking about when I say we had to try out for the team. I will try my best to explain it.
Danny Tippens, or Mr. D as we called him, would announce tryouts. Anyone interested in playing would have to show up and shoot, dribble, run, play defense and anything else the coach thought necessary. After several days of this, he would pick the best 10 players and that would be the team.
If you didn’t make the team, he would politely tell the student to keep practicing and maybe they could make the team the next year. We were 12. But we were taught back then that you win some and lose some.
This may seem barbaric to some readers. But no one that got cut from the team turned into a criminal over it. Not one of them required counseling because of it. And Mr. D didn’t get sued for cutting someone from the team. I’m not sure he could teach in today’s world.
Getting that black uniform with gold letters and numbers was exciting. The gym would be full for many games on Friday nights. We even had cheerleaders that lined the entrance to the dressing room as we ran on to the court. Oh, and they had to try out for the team too. Nothing was a given in those days.
We had a concession stand that sold everything from popcorn to hot dogs. And you could actually take the food to your seat in the bleachers. Doing that today might get you arrested.
But there was one particular game I remember. We were playing the Canton Greenies at home. Canton Elementary still exists but they are no longer the Greenies. I’m not sure if the name was changed because it offended someone or for some other reason. I can’t imagine how Greenie might be offensive, but you never know.
Canton was coached by John Thrower. His team consisted of John John Thomas, Robert Thomas, Joey Groover, Forest Morris, David Reece, Mike Moody, Tommy Brumbelow and Dennis Trimble. I apologize to the ones I can’t remember.
This was possibly the biggest and best team ever assembled in Cherokee County elementary school basketball.
As we huddled before the tipoff, Mr. D told us that we were going to be running a man to man defense. He said, “Collett, I want you guarding John John.” I said, “Yes sir, Coach.” But I was thinking to myself, “This ain’t going to work.”
John John dribbled the ball skillfully down the court. I was ready. Then I blinked. When my eyes opened, John John had already scored and was on the other end of the court.
Mr. D immediately called a time out. We huddled. He said, “Boys, that ain’t going to work. We better play a zone defense.” So we did, yet we still lost.
Several years later, those Greenies were basically still together. But then they were Cherokee Warriors. And they were even better.
I became friends with every one of them in high school. And I cheered them on from the stands.
I occasionally see a couple of them from time to time. As for most of them, I have no idea where they are now.
But I wonder if they realize what a special time that was and what a special thing they had.
Canton has a nice new gym now. But it will never have the character of the old one.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.