Salisbury-Rowan Hall of Fame: Nine will be inducted in August

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2024

Bryan McCullough, 2000. Jon C. Lakey.  


By Mike London

SALISBURY — The Salisbury-Rowan Hall of Fame committee has announced the 2024 class of inductees.

Seven men and two women will be inducted in ceremonies on Aug. 10 at the Salisbury Civic Center.

Jim Baker, Chris Cauble, Donna Carr, Jeff Chambers and Bryan McCullough were elected from a list of 68 nominees on the “regular” ballot.

The Hall of Fame also inducts two candidates annually from a “veterans” list of athletes and coaches whose careers took place 50 or more years ago. Sandra Somers and Harry Koontz, both posthumous candidates, were elected from a ballot of 30.

The late Tom Harrell will be honored as the Horace Billings Award winner for lifetime contributions to sports in Rowan County.

Dan Wales was the choice for the annual Fred M. Evans Community Service Award.

The Salisbury-Rowan Hall of Fame was founded in 2001.  When the Hall of Fame began its work, there were many decades of catching up to do. That process continued during the last month for 11 committee members.

This is the 24th year for the Hall, but it’s the 22nd class of inductees as there were no elections held in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic. There are still a number of college All-Americans, MLB players and record-setting coaches on the ballot.

Football players have accounted for a large share of the Hall of Fame’s membership. Chambers, a 1997 North Rowan graduate, is the 35th man to be elected whose primary sport was football, but he was one of the most dynamic athletes of the 1990s and also excelled in track and field and wrestling. He was Rowan County Male Athlete of the Year as a senior.

Chambers was the first freshman to be honored as All-Rowan County in football and was All-Rowan for four straight seasons. As a senior in the fall of 1996, he was Defensive Player of the Year for Rowan County and the Yadkin Valley Conference. He played in both of the major football postseason all-star games — the Shrine Bowl and the East-West Game.

In track and field, Chambers won three individual state crowns, taking the discus twice and winning an indoor shot put title.

As a senior, he placed fourth in the state tournament as a heavyweight wrestler.

Chambers was a four-year starter at nose guard at Western Carolina. He was All-Southern Conference twice in football and three times in track and field.

Carr and Somers are the 16th and 17th women to be elected as athletes. The primary sport for both was basketball. Two women have been elected for tennis, two for track and field and one for softball. The other 12 females have been known mostly, although not exclusively, for hoops.

A 1995 Salisbury graduate, Carr was the Rowan County Female Athlete of the Year for the 1994-95 school year, standing out in volleyball and track and field as well as basketball. When Carr graduated, she had the second-best discus throw ever at Salisbury High.

Carr scored 1,659 points for the Hornets. She was the school’s all-time scoring leader when she graduated. That total has since been eclipsed by Shayla Fields and Kyla Bryant.

Carr played three seasons for South Carolina before transferring to Catawba College where she produced a dominant senior season. She was South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year and SAC Tournament MVP.

She played pro ball in Finland before embarking on a marketing and coaching career. She’s currently the head women’s basketball coach at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia.

Somers graduated from Cleveland High in 1959, shortly before Cleveland, Mount Ulla and Woodleaf were consolidated into West Rowan High.

She will be the first Cleveland grad inducted into the local Hall of Fame.

Somers played in an era of 6-on-6 girls basketball with much different rules than we have today. She may have been the best local player of that era. She scored 2,377 points in four seasons.

McCullough, a 2001 North Rowan graduate and a 1,000-point scorer, is the 18th to be elected to the Salisbury-Rowan Hall of Fame for men’s basketball.

McCullough led a stout North team his senior year. The only game the Cavaliers lost was in the regional final. McCullough averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds and was Rowan County and Central Carolina Conference Player of the Year.

The 6-foot-6 McCullough was a Division I college standout at UNC Asheville. He started three seasons for the Bulldogs and was the team’s leading scorer as a junior and senior.

He starred in 2003 when UNC Asheville won the Big South Tournament. Then he scored 15 points for the Bulldogs in a March Madness victory, the first win ever in the NCAA Tournament by a Big South team.

He enjoyed a stellar college career with 1,186 points, 300 assists and 147 steals and made 125 3-pointers. He went on to play pro basketball overseas and in Canada for eight seasons.

Baker will be another inductee from the basketball world. The 1974 North Rowan graduate was a very good high school player and suited up for the Catawba Indians, but he has been elected to the Hall mostly for a coaching career of remarkable longevity and remarkable success.

After 12 seasons as an assistant coach at Wingate, Davidson, Virginia Tech, VMI and Catawba, Baker followed legend Sam Moir as Catawba’s head men’s basketball coach. He had a record of 344-236, with six SAC championships, six SAC tourney championships and nine trips to the NCAA Tournament. He entered the Catawba Sports Hall of Fame in 2021.

Baker was hired as Central Cabarrus High’s head coach in 2017 and has directed the Vikings to state and national prominence. Central Cabarrus has lost only one game over the past three seasons, has won two straight 3A state titles and owns the nation’s longest active winning streak with 65 straight victories.

Koontz was a coach and administrator at Dunbar High, the East Spencer school for Black students prior to integration. He was a presence there for a generation, from 1947 until the school closed in 1969.

Koontz starred as a high school athlete in Concord and was educated at Concord’s Logan High, Livingstone College and Indiana University. He taught at Ridgeview High in Hickory before coming to Dunbar. He taught P.E. and math at Dunbar, served as AD and coached football and boys and girls basketball.

His most notable Dunbar team was the 1959 boys basketball squad that went 22-0 and won the 2A state championship for Black schools. His 1953 team scored 102 points in a game, an unheard-of feat for that era. His 1952, 1960 and 1961 teams finished as runner-up in the state.

Cauble was a fine athlete in high school and college, the Rowan County Player of the Year for baseball in 1985 and the catcher for the 1984 Rowan County American Legions state champs. He played baseball for two conference champions at East Carolina and was an all-conference catcher for the Pirates in 1987.

But as was the case with Baker, Cauble made his case for the Hall of Fame mostly with an incredible coaching career.

He began his coaching career at Knox Middle School before returning to East Rowan. He was an assistant coach for East Rowan’s 29-1 state champs in 1995.

He was the head coach for 411 baseball wins at West Rowan and Carson, the most wins by a high school baseball coach in county history. Hall of Famer Bill Kesler is second, with his 295 at North Rowan.

Cauble guided a West Rowan team to 29 wins and the 3A State Championship Series in 2005.

He started the Carson program from scratch in the spring of 2007. He eventually coached 275 wins there. The Cougars won 67 percent of their games during his tenure. Fifteen of his 16 teams made the state playoffs and one made the 3A West Championship Series.

While he’s been retired from coaching for two seasons, Cauble’s impact is still being felt on the diamond. The Catawba College baseball team that will compete in the Division II World Series in Cary on Sunday has eight Carson Cougars on the roster.

Wales has been a tireless advocate for youth sports and has been one of the driving forces behind the Rowan Little League baseball and softball programs for many years.

Rowan Little League softball has placed Rowan County on the national stage frequently in a positive manner, winning World Series championships in Oregon in 2015 and 2019 and finishing as national runner-up in 2016 and 2017.

Harrell, a radio operator for 103 flight missions in World War II, died last August at 98.

A member of the North Carolina Veterans Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, he was president and general manager of the WSTP/WRDX radio station from 1956 to 1995. He was instrumental in launching the careers of a number of Hall of Fame sports broadcasters, including Mary Brennaman, Bob Rathbun, Doug Rice and Howard Platt.