Hall of Fame: Rowan inducts six

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2011

By Mike London
SALISBURY — The cheers were loud for Bobby Jackson, the first NBA standout to be welcomed into the Salisbury/Rowan Sports Hall of Fame.
The 11-year-old Hall’s ranks swelled to 62 members Sunday at the Civic Center. Ralph Shatterly, Jesse Watson, LaTasha Pharr, the late James Brown and the late Bob Miller were the other inductees.
Pharr and Watson are groundbreakers. Pharr is the first person of either gender to be inducted for her athletic accomplishments in the arena of track and field — coach Robert Steele had stood alone, representing that sport — while Watson is the first to be inducted exclusively for his coaching record with female athletes.
Watson, 324-147 for his career, build a powerhouse girls basketball program at East Rowan. The Mustangs were 8-53 in the three seasons prior to Watson taking the helm in 1969, but he got them rolling after initial growing pains. His teams enjoyed 16 straight winning seasons from 1972-73 to 1987-88, including a WNCHSAA championship in 1973-74. Eight of his teams won 20 games, with the 1986-87 squad’s 26-2 still the school’s best record.
“When I started coaching, girls were still playing 6-on-6, with just the two rovers playing fullcourt,” Watson said. “The thinking was that the girls couldn’t run up and down the floor, and the girls didn’t see themselves as athletes — just as girls who happened to play basketball. Well, we were able to convince them they were athletes.”
Watson’s success at East was instrumental in transforming the respect level for Rowan’s female athletes in general — and for girls basketball in particular.
North Rowan’s Pharr also competed in basketball and volleyball, but she found her forte in track and field, representing the U.S. in two international competitions.
“The love and the passion I received from my family and coaches provided the drive,” Pharr said. “But I never knew how far it would take me.”
A six-time All-American, Pharr was MVP of the 2A girls outdoor track meet every season from 1998-2001 as well as the 2000 state indoor meet for all classifications. She racked up 12 individual state titles in the hurdles and jumps, before moving on to star at Alabama.
“LaTasha was about sacrifice, dedication and work,” Steele said. “She put in the time to excel, and she made every step of the journey a positive experience.”
Brown, who died in 2007, was a terrific basketball guard and the floorleader for some of the best high school basketball teams in county history, as well as outstanding teams at Catawba.
Coach Bob Pharr recalled his first meeting with Brown and big Charles Lynn. They knocked on the door of his algebra class at Boyden, said they were transferring from J.C. Price, and wondered if they could play basketball for him.
Pharr took them down to the gym after his class was finished and watched the 6-foot-7 Lynn almost tear apart the rebounding machine.
“OK, you can play for us,” Pharr told Lynn. Then he looked at the skinny, 6-foot-1 Brown and said, “OK, now what can you do?”
“Well, I can make Charles all-conference,” said Brown, flashing his infectious smile.
And he did.
“We put the ball in his hands, and there was one year James made four of our guys all-conference,” Pharr said with a chuckle.
That was Brown’s gift. He elevated the play of his teammates. Those who knew him well said he elevated the atmosphere of every gym he ever walked into. Boyden was 50-2 in Brown’s two seasons.
Reunited with Lynn at Catawba, Brown shot more and scored more than he had in high school — amassing 1,350 career points. He was all-conference in 1974 before heading to the coaching ranks.
He was inducted into the Catawba Hall of Fame in 2005.
A longtime fixture at both North Rowan and West Rowan, Shatterly coached wrestling for 32 years, football for 30 years and track for 15, as well as serving as athletics director. That’s lots of years of sacrificing.
“I spent more time with my fellow coaches than I did with my family,” Shatterly quipped. “I was fortunate to have a great wife. She kept the kids out of jail.”
Said Larry Thomason, a Hall of Fame coach who worked with Shatterly at North, “There were times Ralph slept on a wrestling mat at the school, trying to get done all the things that he needed to do. But everything he did, he did with precision.”
In May, Shatterly was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s North Carolina Chapter. His wrestling teams won conference championships in four different decades — and his 1968 Cavaliers went undefeated and won the WNCHSAA championship.
Shatterly’s proteges include Davie’s highly successful coach Buddy Lowery.
Miller, recipient of the Horace Billings Lifetime Achievement Award, was respected as a fine official and revered as a youth coach.
Miller knew his stuff.
There was a time when Davie County’s Hall of Fame coach Jack Ward questioned Miller about a decision.
Miller promptly quoted, not just the rule, but the page in the rulebook where Ward could go look it up. That ended the disagreement.
Both Miller’s children were born in February, the peak of the high school basketball season, and he was on basketball courts for those occasions, rather than the hospital.
“He was dedicated,” his wife Tippie said. “He was where he should’ve been.”
What more can be said about Jackson, who rose from humble beginnings to become Big Ten MVP as the leader of Minnesota’s 1997 Final Four team and the winner of the NBA Sixth Man Award as a Sacramento King in 2002-03?
Said Sam Gealy, who coached the electric guard at Salisbury High, “He set a standard throughout his professional life for every athlete in Rowan County to follow.”
The No. 2 all-time scorer at Salisbury, Jackson lasted 12 pro seasons and averaged double-figure points seven times.
“People asked me why I played so hard,” Jackson said. “The answer was my mom. I did it all for her.”
Sarah Jackson worked multiple jobs to give her son a chance. He bought her a house after he was a first-round draft pick in 1997.
Sarah died of cancer in 2003, in the middle of her son’s most sensational season, but he continues to honor her memory by working with kids and communities as an ambassador for the Kings.