Back in the days when I was young/I’m not a kid anymore/but some days I sit and wish I was a kid again
Most–if not all–basketball fans hold a special place in their hoop-filled hearts for high school basketball. In spite of the increasing loss of innocence of the bastion that is high school hoops due to the voracious appetite for college hoops’s need for the “next best thing”, high school basketball invokes feelings of nostalgia, community, and a sense of “connectedness” (Excuse my wordplay), because when we watch high school basketball, we watch our friends, relatives, and students lace up the sneakers to do battle on the hardwood for 32 minutes to give their schools bragging rights, but they also play to represent for the communities that they live in.
In my neck of the woods, high school basketball was played at an extremely competitive, yet entertaining level from the early ’90s until the early ’00s. In my local community, there were four high schools that would (and still) battle for bragging rights every basketball season. These four schools were Dalton High School, Southeast Whitfield High School, Northwest Whitfield High School, and Murray County High School. From Murray County, I had a chance to witness the likes of Chris Bishop and his brother Eric, who could jump over the moon, and eventually tried out as a Track and Field athlete for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Next up on the list of one of the most memorable high school basketball programs in my hometown/area was Northwest Whitfield High School, home of the Bruins. Northwest had a colorful collection of hoopers. For example, you combine the blend of athleticism and power of a guy named “Pokey”, the playmaking abilities and defensive prowess of a cat named “Redd” (who evolved from being primarily a defensive stopper in high school to becoming a deadly scoring machine years after his h.s. graduation), and a sharp shooter named Tommy (Thompson). You were guaranteed to get your money’s worth if you decided to buy a ticket to see the orange and blue-clad bruins get busy during the golden era of basketball in North Georgia.
I’d be too modest if I failed to mentioned my alma mater, Southeast Whitfield High School. When I first graced the halls of Southeast as a freshman in the fall of 1998, the big men on campus at the time were Lance “Chief” Minor, Brandon Bonds, Tracy, “Tre Boy” Harris, Marcus “Coop” Cooper, and Rashad “Shad” Curtis, to name a few. Over the course of my high school years, my school’s fan section–affectionately known as the “Dog Pound” by us Southeast Raiders–would hoot, holler, and cheer on the Raiders boys team all of the way to the coveted spot of #1 in the state of Georgia during the 2000-01 basketball season. Back in the 90s/Early 00s, the maroon and silver were NO JOKE.
The last local school that I’d like to mention is none other than the Evil Empir–I mean the Dalton High School Catamounts. While some of you who read this may want to discount my writing ability because of my omission of some of the great players over the years who donned the white, black, and red of DHS, I’ll just state that there were simply TOO MANY GREAT PLAYERS TO NAME who came out of the Dalton High School basketball program, and this includes the boys and girls b-ball teams. I will give honorable mention to players like Brendan Plavich, Mike Banks, the Westmoreland brothers, T.J. Blackwell, Brandon “Feezy” Fields, Derrick Tinson, Eddie Jackson, & Frank Pinson, while Sabrina Beavers held it down for the ladies. I had to jokingly refer to Dalton High’s team as the “Evil Empire”, because they were like the New York Yankees of North Georgia. You either loved them, or you hated them. You rooted for them, or you booed them whenever they stepped foot on your school’s basketball court. Not only were they the biggest school in my hometown in both sheer size and student population, but they always boasted a DEEP roster of incredible athletes…in ALL sports.
While I have no intention of belittling the numerous accomplishments of the younger generations of basketball talent in my area that came along later–like 2004 or later–the players and teams that I mentioned were a memorable part of my youth, so of course I’m going to be slightly more partial to them! No matter how much basketball that I write about, discuss, or play for that matter, I’ll never forget that golden era of hoops during my high school years. I apologize if I forgot to mention any more of you from my hometown who read this, and was a part of a great time period for basketball in Whitfield and Murray County. However, I’m optimistic that we’ll have the opportunity to see another great generation of basketball spring forward from my home town of Dalton, GA, and the neighboring Chatsworth (Murray County).