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Daniel McLaurin

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32 MINUTES OF GREATNESS: Special Edition

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Daniel McLaurin

32 Minutes of Greatness Special Edition

by

Daniel McLaurin

Daniel McLaurin Books: an imprint of Falcon Creek Publishing Co. Los Angeles Houston Washington, D.C.

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32 MINUTES OF GREATNESS: Special Edition Copyright © 2009 Daniel McLaurin All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or manual means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

First Edition – Soft Cover Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Library of Congress Control Number: McLaurin, Daniel 32 Minutes Of Greatness: a novel/by Daniel McLaurin — 1st ed. p. cm ISBN : 978-0-9649756-6-8 (13 digit) 1. Title 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

LA-TX-DC

Published by Falcon Creek Publishing Company for Daniel McLaurin Books June 2009; All right reserved. www.falconcreekbooks.com | mclaurin.ifogo.com Edited by Daniel McLaurin Printed in the United States of America

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Dedication

Carl Leiderman Easterling 1907 – 1980

LEADER, PRODUCER OF CHAMPIONS, and DEVELOPER OF YOUNG MEN

This book is dedicated to the late, great Coach Carl L. Easterling, a fantastic Coach who had concern for his players’ well being. We could not have had the success we enjoyed, were it not for Coach Easterling. During his basketballcoaching career he won 80% of his basketball games, and was the coach of Hillside’s only boy’s 1965 4-A state basketball championship team. With his innovative style of play that changed the game, Coach Easterling was the architect of the Great; fabulous “Pony Express,” team. His team owns several scoring records including the highest scoring average in North Carolina’s history of basketball. “All of us players, coached by you, appreciated you and what you accomplished. Your teaching helped enhance our lives and become men. Thank you for choosing us to be a part of your life and legacy. We consider it an honor and privilege to have had you as our coach. The North Carolina Hall of Fame definitely should be your resting place.” 7


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Prologue The true story you are about to read begins in a small city in the state of North Carolina. It is time to resurrect the events that led to some unbelievable seasons of high school basketball. In the1960’s there were many historical events that changed this nation, while an all Black high school basketball team carved out its niche in American sports history. Also, I will inform you about the genius minds that helped develop this one in a lifetime dream team. If you haven’t an idea, “come and “Pony Express” with me as I replay the true story through the pages of this book, 32 Minutes of Greatness. From This account you will see what it was like to be a Black athlete in America, especially in the south during the era of the Jim Crow laws. Living face to face with indignities forced upon Black people, it seemed to be a never-ending story of oppression to us. You will read how a team of great athletes helped change the way basketball was played and the role our team played in desegregation of college basketball on college campuses in the south. This story will ask some pertinent questions that have not been answered to this date. This is an amazing accomplishment by an all Black high school basketball team that has gone unheralded in the sports world for at least four decades. What I don’t want is to have racism overshadow our 8


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accomplishments. I am convinced what we have to offer will help young people understand.

___________________

“You can go far beyond the capabilities that you have, surpassing the negative labels placed upon you; beating all of the odds that are not in your favor.� Daniel McLaurin, III

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Chapter One

During the mid sixties, when black people in this country were struggling for equal rights and justice under the constitution, we were vehemently denied our God given rights as human beings and productive citizens of a nation we helped build and become a super power. Black people were constantly locked out of benefits enjoyed by White people under the constitution. Every day our character, intelligence and moral fiber were grossly scrutinized. Because of hatred and ignorance, our people were treated badly throughout a nation full of prejudice. Our school systems were segregated. Black schools did not have Black History studies in our classrooms. Black students were not taught the many contributions and accomplishments made by Black’s in the fields of medicine, math, literature and science. The textbooks were hand me downs from the White high schools. Even so, we excelled with what we had to work with. The textbooks were not in great shape; some had racial slurs written in them as well. When I look back on those days nothing came easy for Black people in the United States of America. There 10


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were certain parts of the city Black’s could not live in without fear of reprisals. Our family members could work in those areas, which was the extent of it. If you ventured on the wrong side of the city, you did so at your own risk. One prime example happened on a bright sunny day in July. My best friend June Harris and I were on our way to McDougald gym to play basketball. One of our classmates drove up and asked if we wanted to take a ride in his new convertible Volkswagen? We declined the offer to play ball. Later we found out our classmate had driven to Shoney’s drive through to buy a hamburger. While sitting there waiting to be served, he was surrounded by a group of White guys; reportedly they were Duke Football players that did not like the fact he was there. Shoney’s did not serve Black people in our era. To make sure that he got the message, mustard, ketchup, and soft drinks with ice were dumped on him and the interior of his car. While trying to get out of there, he was taunted with racial slurs and obscenities. The message was always the same, Black people would be treated with humiliation and harm, if you dare try to live on equal terms with White people. Our friend was lucky to escape without bodily harm. There were many incidents like that growing up in the south. Daily, we read signs in public places, which said for Whites only and for, colored only. The signs were bad enough, when you read the sign further, it said, “by order of police.” The terms were clear; you knew the law was there to enforce second class citizenship imposed upon Black people. Separate bathrooms and water fountains were a way of life for Black’s. All you had to do was go down town to the bus station. “Back door entrances were the norm for Black people in the south.” We were not allowed to eat in White owned restaurants; our money was good enough for them to take but our presence was not accepted. Freedom to sit down in a White establishment was not an option. We could not eat something as small as a hot dog in a five and dime store. “I remember buying a hot dog and a soda pop at Woolworth‘s, or Kress’s then 11


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having to take it outside to eat.” The lunch counter was unavailable to me because of the color of my skin. There was wide spread segregation and racism in the state of North Carolina and the city of Durham. I grew up in the city of Durham. Despite hardships and ignorance of American injustices, Black people continued to persevere. In my opinion, segregation was a blessing in disguise in our communities and school system. I say this because Black owned businesses were prevalent in Durham. Born from the entrepreneurship of John Merrick, Charles C. Spaulding’ Dr. D. A. Moore, Stanford L. Warren and others, the results created what became known to the black community as “Black Wall Street.” Black people owned an insurance company, a library, service stations; mom and pop stores; restaurants; barber shops; shoe shops; neighborhood grocery stores; a private business college; movie theater; and banks; you name it the Black community had it in Durham. We even had Lincoln hospital for Black people and Black policemen for Black neighborhoods. Most of what we needed was available to us. Hillside High School was the only school Black students could attend. There were two county schools, Little River a 1-A school and Merrick Moore a 3-A school. We were a 4-A school with more than 1,200-students. All of the best Black athletes in the city attended Hillside high school. There was no watered down talent during my era. This was true throughout the state of North Carolina in Black high schools. To make a varsity team in any major sport you had to be somewhat of a superstar, the competition was very stiff. Segregation played a role in making our teams as powerful as they were. In our era, Black coaches did not worry about losing blue chip athletes to White schools in the state. When I was a kid, I loved to play the game of baseball. Playing midget league baseball was the thing, wearing the uniform and playing in front of a crowd at the local park. I pitched most of the time; if I was not scheduled to pitch I played right field or I was the catcher. On the pitchers mound I 12


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wanted to be like Bob Gibson. There were all-star games that I played in, with some of my teammates. Playing baseball was great. My next-door neighbor also played baseball. He was my sports idol when I was a kid, his name is William Burroughs, and we called him Billy. In my opinion, Billy was the best player on the basketball team at Hillside, their leading scorer and sometimes led in rebounding. He also played football and was a good student athlete. One day I followed Billy to his varsity basketball practice and hid in the gym until practice began. The coach caught me but allowed me to stay as long as I didn’t interfere. After practice I was allowed to shoot around until it was time to go. From that day until Billy graduated, I went to practice with him. I would sit on my front porch and wait for Billy to come out of his house so that we could go to practice. He didn’t mind me tagging along with him. Billy encouraged me as well. He acknowledged my interest in the game of basketball. Billy said “One day you will be able to play basketball at Hillside.” You can’t imagine how good I felt to hear that from the person I looked up to. I didn’t have an older brother; Billy became my older brother in my mind. There were some magnificent ball players on that team. As I sat in the bleachers and watched them run through their drills, I knew basketball was the game for me. I felt the adrenaline rush through my body and my palms sweat as they scrimmaged. Needless to say basketball became my game of choice. Even though the basketball teams were good, the state championship had eluded them as a team. Hillside had never won a basketball championship in the schools existence. I knew I wanted to play for Hillside and help win its first basketball championship. While attending C.C. Spaulding grade school, Whitted Jr. High school was over crowded, so some of us attended the first 7th grade class at C. C. Spaulding. On the way to school, I had to go past Hillside everyday to get to C. C. Spaulding. It was 13


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like I couldn’t wait until I Was in the 10th grade, so that I could attend beloved Hillside. My eight-grade year was spent at Whitted Jr. High. I was excited about playing basketball for Whitted, but Coach Williams did not give my future teammates and I a chance to tryout. He stated, “I was not good enough to make his team.” The statement made me feel unwanted and hurt; however, it did not break my confidence in my ability to play the game of basketball. Several of us that did not get a tryout, proved his evaluation of our talents to be untrue. You will see that he missed a great opportunity to coach a unique group of athletes who had a great impact on future basketball in the state of North Carolina. During the summer prior to entering the 9th grade, I spent my summer in Baltimore with my dad. I played on the playgrounds of the city especially at Druid Hill Park. Upon returning home, I learned a special wing had been added to Hillside to accommodate ninth graders. In 1962-1963 I got my chance to attend the beloved home of the Hornet’s. I lived a few blocks away, so I got lucky and attended the ninth grade at Hillside. Some of my future teammates attended as well. A few of my future teammates attended Whitted Jr. High, where they reached stardom there. In September 1962, our ninth grade year began at Hillside. There were no sports teams for ninth graders when we arrived there. Coach Russell Blunt organized a basketball team for us. Several of us played on the team for Coach Blunt. Our schedule consisted of intramural basketball games our first year there. Coach scheduled a few games for us, which began our Hillside basketball careers. Coach Russell Blunt did a great job on such short notice. He spent time with us even though he was busy with the football team and track athletes. Our school was guided to 174-A state track championships under the tutelage of Coach Blunt. Coach Blunt gave us a great beginning; he made us feel like we were a part of the school. Because he showed interest in us, Coach Blunt became my first basketball coach. He instilled in us a work ethic that took us to a level we had never experienced. Coach Blunt has passed on to glory now. 14


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While he walked among us, there were many lives influenced by coach in a positive way. Not one of us athletes will ever forget the great Coach Russell Blunt. He was the first genius mind who helped develop our skills and knowledge of the game. Coach always said, “Hard work and discipline will breed champions.” Running made us what we were on the basketball court. He also believed, “When you are physically fit you will be mentally strong.” Which meant you made fewer mistakes in a ball game, especially a game in doubt. As ninth graders we learned our lesson well. After playing for Coach Blunt, we felt like we were a part of Hillside. Even though we were housed in the new wing of the school, the upper classmen accepted us as part of the student body. Our generation changed the format of high schools in America from 9th grade thru 12th grade. It was an exciting time being underclassmen and high school students. Our class would leave a legacy at Hillside like no other senior class in the history of the school. The class of 1966 was the last segregated student body at Hillside. Being the last segregated class in our school’s history, we left an indelible mark upon beloved Hillside and sports history in the state of North Carolina. We made the best out of a turbulent time in American history and created a “Basketball Masterpiece” that has lasted for four decades. No high school teams have been able to duplicate what we did on a consistent basis throughout two great seasons of high school basketball.

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Chapter Two

In 1963 some significant and tragic history became a part of our young lives. In the month of June, civil rights activist, Medgar Evers was felled by an assassin’s bullet in Mississippi, simply because he wanted to abolish the Jim Crow laws which gripped this country that prevented black people from voting. In August of 1963, the march on Washington D.C. was led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; he delivered to the world the famous I have a dream speech. Five years later this great Black man was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. In September of 1963 the Ku Klux Klan bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Four little innocent Black girls lost their lives because of hatred for Black people. Two months later president John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. As the tragedy of the events of his assassination unfolded, while sitting in our classrooms, suddenly a voice came over the intercom system. At that very moment, the entire school was silent. It seemed to take forever to hear the message. There was an eerie feeling before the message was announced to the student body. The voice from the announcer over the intercom system sounded sad and choked up as she said, “I am sorry to 16


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inform you President John Kennedy has been assassinated in Dallas.” Before she finished the announcement, I heard screams and moans through the hallways. Teachers and students were crying; it seemed as though the world had stopped on its axis. There was panic and disbelief as we sat in momentary shock. As part of our history studies, we had read about the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. I never thought it would happen in my lifetime. The killing of President Kennedy was one of the saddest days of my life as a young Black kid in America. Every Black person I knew young and old liked President Kennedy. “I think Black people had placed high hopes that President Kennedy and his administration would some how change racism in this country.” After all, 33 presidents prior to Kennedy had done nothing to improve equal rights for Black people. “Just maybe, this man had compassion for a race of people that were treated as if we didn’t count. Racism made me feel unwanted in the country I was born in.” At the time, “I didn’t focus on what it would take to change the way White people treated us in America. I always knew change had to come from the hearts and minds of those who garnered hatred for another race of people.” “Change could not come from a written mandate.” I remember the student body going to the auditorium to watch the events unfold on television. Again there was crying as we sat and watched the funeral procession on Pennsylvania Avenue, in our nations Capitol. I felt that White men had no respect for his people. If disagreements were solved in that manner, then we as a people and a country would be in serious trouble. I also knew our Black leaders were not safe from the assassin’s bullet. History proved this statement to be true. “How could we ever recover from these ungodly assassinations of our leaders?” As a nation we never got a chance to see how he, John F. Kennedy, would affect the social injustices done to Black people. In my opinion, “All three of these men, Medgar Evers; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; and 17


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President John F. Kennedy were eliminated because they believed in the eyes of this nation all of the people should be treated equal under the constitution.” The years 1963-1964 we were sophomores in high school, trying to establish ourselves as student athletes. On a Saturday morning in September, Coach Carl Easterling drove up in front of my house. He got out of his dark green Chevrolet and walked up to my front door and knocked. With a surprised look on my face, I answered the door. I was not expecting Coach Easterling to come to my house. “I said hi Coach!” and opened the screen door to invite him into the house. I said, “Have a seat coach.” He said, “thank you,” and sat in the armed chair near the window. In his baritone voice, he asked, “Are your parents home?” Just as he finished the question, my mother and grandmother came in to meet coach. After the introductions, he said, “I came to ask your permission for Danny to tryout for the basketball team at Hillside?” He explained to them I had potential as a basketball player. My mother said, “I don’t want him to play if it interferes with his school work.” Coach replied, “If he does not maintain his grade point average, he will not play for Hillside.” After speaking for a while, permission was granted. I felt great about getting a chance to tryout at Hillside. You should have seen the huge smile on my face as I walked coach back to his car. His words were, “I will see you at school on Monday, basketball practice begins in 2-weeks,” he got into his car and drove off. Knowing how coach was, he was on his way to visit the homes of parents of players like George Outlaw, June Harris, Michael Hayes, Hollis Vines and Gregory Monroe that he wanted to play for him. Coach Easterling was recruiting the players that would fit his style of play for the upcoming season. Also, we had to be good students to play on the basketball team at Hillside. We were the only students who had our grades posted for all to see. Our grades were posted on the wall in the hall outside of the gym. If your grades were not up to the standards you could not play until your grades were satisfactory. That was incentive enough to keep your name off 18


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of that list. At one particular juncture during the school year, June; George; Mike; Hollis; Gregory, “Goat” and I, sat on the curb of Lawson and Concord streets. The discussion was about not leaving Hillside without a basketball championship. All of us vowed to be the first basketball state championship team at Hillside. We even discussed someone from our group having a chance to play college and pro ball. No matter whom it was we would be there for them. We knew that someone was special enough to get there. What became the nucleus of the first ever championship and record-setting teams at Hillside started our first season on the Jr. Varsity. Coach Willie Bradshaw had the task of teaching us how to play the game of basketball as a team. Coach Bradshaw was smart; intelligent and a well dressed man who knew how to relate to us as a team and individuals. He was a great motivator who made you want to give your all for him as a player. At that time of our basketball careers, he was the perfect coach for us. We affectionately labeled him “Tab” because he was always on a diet and tab was his drink of choice. We could always talk to him about anything of concern to us. Coach Bradshaw was considered more than just a coach to us. He had our respect as well as our willingness to work hard in practices to perfect our skills as a team. Personally, “I think coach saw us as a group of guys who had the potential to accomplish something special.” Coach taught us the fundamentals of basketball from the ground up; I believe we were the best-prepared team when facing our opponents. Our team had the correct foundation of the game of basketball. It was like going to class everyday. Needless to say, Coach Bradshaw believed in running as part of our practices. Aside from the running, we spent numerous hours on defense; re-bounding; outlet passes; filling the lanes on the fast break and blocking out on re-bounds. He taught us how to recognize different defensive strategies 19


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that would be used against us and how to break them down. Coach’s philosophy, he repeatedly stated, “defense is the key to winning ball games.” Defense is the least glamorous part of basketball; we bought into his belief and perfected our defensive game. Already an explosive scoring machine, now we had the complete package with our defensive skills. All of us took pride in our defensive abilities. Fundamentally sound as players and a team, we were always in excellent condition. The constant running increased our cardiovascular system. Coach Bradshaw stated, “If you lose a ball game, it will not be because you are not in shape, it will be your failure to execute the game plan.” Our practices looked as though we were not a good team; the reason is we knew the system so well. Scrimmaging against tenacious defense all day in practice gave us the understanding of how to cope with it from opposing teams. The myth is that a defensive pressing team did not fair well if it were being pressed. We didn’t worry about that, because practicing against tenacious defense everyday helped us keep our poise in a game. Any press thrown against us we could break it. For our team at least, we dispelled that myth. I stated previously, our coach was a very smart coach who prepared us well. Coach Bradshaw prepared us so well in fact, that no team could run with us on the basketball court. Our team was small in statue, so we made defense and speed our allies. We took our coach’s persona on the court; smart; intelligent; and well organized. Falling apart on the court was not something we did. For small guys we had plenty of heart and did not back down from the larger teams we faced. Our first season of high school basketball started on the Jr. Varsity, the first five ball games resulted in victories. Soon after, we had sparked interest in our ball games. Junior Varsity games started at 6:00 pm and we always filled the bleachers. The student body dubbed us the Baby Hornets, as we ran off a string of victories while the varsity was struggling to win games. 20


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On several occasions Coach Easterling asked Coach Bradshaw to keep us in the gym, so that we could scrimmage against the varsity. Often in those scrimmages we held our own, getting close enough to beat them before coach blew the whistle. As I looked back on those practices, I guess our coach did not want us to show up the varsity players because they were having a hard enough time winning ball games. Just as we were gaining momentum coach blew the whistle and ended the practice. As sophomores we showed unlimited potential, certainly a team to watch in the future. The Baby Hornet’s ended our season with 19-victories. The teams that followed extended the winning tradition and reached 42-games over a period of time. Success seemed to be ours for the taking on the basketball courts, but we were still having the problem of segregation. Black kids in America were faced with separate and unequal status. Winning ball games came easy to us on the basketball courts. Our games resulted in victory after victory; but, winning civil rights that were already ours proved costly to our leaders. It was such a shame to see Black people omitted from attending institutions of higher learning because of the color of our skin. If there was an attempt to do so, we were met with vicious attacks from so called law enforcement officers and angry citizens in whichever state equality under the law was trying to be enforced. Governors and school officials literally stood in doorways of schools defying the government of the United States. Law enforcement officer’s unleashed dog’s batons and water hoses upon Black people. Angry White citizens lined up on the streets shouting racial slurs like, “Niggers go back to Africa.” Trying to prevent the inevitable those angry White people hurled bottles; sticks; rocks and spat on Black’s. With no uncertain terms, White’s let us know that integration would not be forced upon them. It was not unusual for us to have civil rights activists like Floyd McKissick, and others to speak and lead peace marches through the city of Durham. My sister Gloria and others were 21


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arrested while marching down town Main Street protesting against substandard treatment of Black people. She was very proud of her arrest for freedom. “To me, integration meant that Black people were free to exercise our inalienable rights. Everything written in the constitution should have been available to us without denial. Sadly it didn’t happen without marches, boycotts and sit-ins.” The saying “we shall overcome” caused us to look inward at our blackness as we were reminded constantly through songs by the Impressions that empowered us to “Keep on Pushing.” James Brown told us to be proud of our blackness with, “Say it loud I’m Black and I’m proud.” There was a brash young heavyweight champion named Muhammed Ali, who shouted that he was pretty and the greatest of all times. Ali was saying that Black is beautiful. Around the country young Black people were saying Black is beautiful, say it loud I’m Black and I’m proud. “Black people were trying to run a fast break to equality on the social courts of injustice. Instead, we were faced with the stall game, the ball of justice was held by the White’s of this country and they were not passing it to us Black people.” - Daniel McLaurin III

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Chapter Three

In

1963, Michael Jordan was born in New York. His family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina. I have often wondered if Jordan realizes the impact we had on his basketball career in the state of North Carolina. When Michael was born, we were sophomores. Maybe the question to ask is, does he know about the “Pony Express?” Not only Jordan, there were other Black ball players who had fantastic careers at White universities in the state of North Carolina. Some were native North Carolinian’s, such as Walter Davis; James Worthy; Brad Daugherty; Eric “Sleepy” Floyd; Dominique Wilkins; Danny Manning; David Thompson and Phil Ford, benefited from our accomplishments. A few of these guys attended high schools that we set records against. In our era, there were not going to be an influx of Black ball players on White college campuses in the south. As a nation we were just about 100-years out of slavery. Some of the Jim Crow laws were in full effect. Black professional athletes were victims of separate and unequal treatment as well as us high school student athletes. Unlike their white teammates, there were places Black players could not patronize. These professional… 23

32 Minutes of Greatness  

The true story you are about to read begins in a small city in the state of North Carolina. It is time to resurrect the events that led to s...

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