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Knox had crazy bounces in seasons past

By Dale Basinger
Special to the Salisbury Post
There were a lot of disappointed ninth graders in the class of 1966-67 at Knox Junior High School. That was the year the ninth grade was held back at Knox instead of going on to Boyden High School to be freshmen. It was also the school year that an athletic program started at Knox, with Mel Harris as football coach and Bill Cansler as basketball coach and athletic director. I was an assistant to Coach Cansler that first year since we had only one boysí team.
The first year was a memorable one, even though we had a losing record. You could say we were building character as well as paving the way for winning seasons to come. Among the players on that team were David Fisher who became a dentist, Louis Woodruff who became a lawyer, and Richard Wittecar who became a college professor.
And also on the team was David Butler who became a teacher and for whom Butler High School in Charlotte was named. Tragically David died in a house fire. Coach Cansler had nicknames for many of the players. Butler was nicknamed ěDouble Heel-clicksî because that was what it appeared he did while running back down court after making a good play.
After that first season, another boysí team was formed made up of seventh-and eighth-graders and called the JVs. I was named the coach of that team and always kept at least five seventh graders to build for the next season. If we had an exceptionally talented eighth grader, he was promoted to the varsity (ninth-grade team). Beginning in 1967, I was the coach of the Knox boysí JV team until 1988 with the exception of the 1971-72 and the 1983-1986 seasons.
An abundance of memories flood my mind as I think back about those teams, but a few stand out. The first game we played was against Northeast Junior High from High Point. We were beaten 51-17. Any thoughts of joining the greats of the coaching ranks disappeared in 24 minutes (We played 6 minute quarters). I thought I had my team prepared but neglected to put in a zone offense or a way to attack a full court zone press. As I came to find out, Northeast had an exceptional team that year and we did recover to win nine and lose five for the year behind the sharp shooting of Donald Bunyan. Bunyan would later be a big part of Bobby Pharrís team that defeated a Crest team led by the great David Thompson.
Then there was the game against Albemarle years later at home in the Knox Dome. Neither team was playing exceptionally well and the game went into the third overtime. We managed to get a one-point lead and the ball out of bounds with two seconds left. How could we lose? Well, a foul was called on one of our players on the inbounds pass and Albemarle was awarded a one and one at the foul line. They had shot about 25 percent from the foul line for the game but as you can guess, their player calmly stepped up to the foul line and hit both shots and we lost by one point. Coach Cansler let me know that we had been beaten by a team coached by their wrestling coach.
A few years later we were playing at Asheboro and had a commanding lead with a few minutes to go in the game. I inserted all of the seventh-graders to play out the remaining time, but one of my players said that he was not feeling well and did not want to go into the game. Since this young man was scholarly and polite, I had no reason not to believe him. Years later, while delivering a sermon at a prominent Salisbury church he told the story. But it was not because he was not feeling well that he did not want to play. Rather, it was because he had forgotten to wear his game pants under his warm-ups. This young man is now the minister of a large church in Atlanta.
There was a game we played against Griffin Junior High of High Point in which we played at our best. Their coach was disgusted with his starters and sat them down in the second quarter. We defeated them 78-23 and I played our second and third teams when he played his. Later I was called to testify on his behalf because a group of High Point parents wanted him fired. I donít recall whether he was fired or not, but he was a good coach and did not deserve to be treated this way.
Years later, we again were playing Griffin Junior High and they had an exceptional team with what looked like high school players. They defeated us by 18 points, but the game itself was unique. We managed to tie them in the first, third, and fourth quarters but they outscored us 18-0 in the second quarter. I called three time-outs to try to stem the tide but there was little we could do to stop this talented bunch once they got on a roll. This time a different coach did not require me to testify on his behalf to keep his job.
I do recall one game at North Asheboro Junior High very vividly, and not because of what happened during the game, but afterwards. The date was Jan. 26, 1982, and my wife was pregnant. Normally, Coach Cansler and I rode in the bus together for away games with both teams, but this time I told him my wifeís delivery could come at any time. As a precaution I persuaded him that I had better drive my car and return home after the JV game. Almost as soon as I got home, my wifeís water broke and we rushed to the hospital where our second son, Robert, was born in an hour. Sometimes you just get lucky.
There were so many good players over the years on those Knox teams. Kevin Auten (now Sheriff Auten) held our scoring record by torching the nets for 25 points in a game. Remember, we played six minute quarters, but Kevin had a nice touch with his mid-range jumper and was a joy to coach.
Another outstanding player for the Knox JVs for two years was Fred Campbell, who went on to play for Rick Barnes at Providence University. Even though Fred later grew to be 6-feet-8 inches tall, he had quite a shot from 18 to 20 feet out in junior high.
Our only undefeated season was turned in by the 1975-76 team. We managed to win all 14 of our games behind starters Cleo Holt, Louis Turner, Coe Brier, Larry Jones and Joel Goodwin. Ironically our best player, Woodrow Boler, was recovering from a football injury and joined us about half way through the season.
Also, due to broken bones they suffered during football season, terrific players like Bryan Withers and Bobby Jackson did not play eighth-grade basketball. Football is not always kind to basketball coaches awaiting their best players. But maybe thatís why they went on to have such outstanding careers after junior high.
In 1983 the ninth grade at Knox was moved back to Salisbury High School, and I along with several other teachers moved with them. Bill Cansler remained at Knox to coach the seventh and eighth grade team, now the varsity, for three years before he retired in 1986. William Robinson, the principal at Knox Middle School, asked me if I would coach the boyís team. With the permission of my principal at Salisbury High, Dr. Windsor Eagle, I agreed and coached at Knox for two more years.
By my reckoning I coached basketball at Knox for 17 seasons. To all of the young men that I had the privilege to coach and there are many more that I would like to name, thank you for the memories. The ball really did take some crazy bounces.

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