"There's no other person like our coach, Mr. Ned," a former basketball player said of John W. "Ned" Sampson.
Sampson, a three-sport star and 1953 UNCP graduate, was nominated in August to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association's (NCHSAA) Hall of Fame.
He is a legendary player and coach, and the father of Oklahoma University head basketball coach Kelvin Sampson. According to the Raleigh News and Observer, Sampson may be the best Native American athlete ever from North Carolina.
Although he excelled in three sports, Sampson was best at basketball in high school and UNCP and had an outstanding coaching career at Magnolia High School.
He took the news with characteristic modesty.
"It's something I did not expect, but I'm glad and I feel honored by being selected," Samson told Earl Vaughn Jr. of the Fayetteville Observer. "I really enjoyed playing ball. When we came along, that's about all there was to do, that and work."
Sampson went on to a great career at UNC Pembroke. His talents went mostly unnoticed nationally, but after a game against a traveling all-star team, Sampson received a letter from Duke All-American Dick Groat saying he was the best basketball player he had ever played against.
He averaged 24.3 points per game in his senior season at UNCP in 1952, and he scored a school record 40 points against Campbell University. At 6-foot 2, 190 pounds, Sampson was a pure shooter who could use either hand, according to "Playing Before an Overflow Crowd," the book by Bruce Barton and Tim Brayboy that chronicled the all-Indian basketball league.
"This is the best thing I've heard in a long time," Barton said of the Hall of Fame nomination. "He's my hero and a class act. Mr. Ned has more friends than anybody I know."
Sampson coached at Magnolia from 1953 through 1967, winning Indian High School Athletic Conference championships in both men's and women's basketball. He was a teacher, coach and athletic director at Pembroke High from 1968 through 1977.
Ronnie Chavis, who helped nominate Sampson for the hall, said he always got the best out of his players. Chavis is athletic director for the Public Schools of Robeson County and serves on several NCHSAA committees.
"I'm very happy for Mr. Ned because he's getting his due," said Chavis, who played against Sampson's teams and later worked for him. "He always seemed the same, win or lose. He took the talent he had and worked extremely hard to bring out the best in them."
The all-Indian conference was not sanctioned by the NCHSAA, and Sampson's election is an important recognition of its outstanding players, coaches and fans, Chavis said.
Basketball is in the Sampson family's blood. Son, Kelvin, played basketball and baseball at Pembroke High School and later at UNCP. He is head basketball coach at Oklahoma University.
Ned and Kelvin are the only father-son tandem in UNCP's Athletic Hall of Fame.
"He was a great, great athlete," Kelvin said of his father in his biography, "Kelvin Sampson, The OU Basketball Story." "I was inducted more for what I accomplished after I left. He was inducted for what he accomplished there."
While the Sampsons prepare for another basketball season, Mr. Ned has a few additional dates on his calendar.
The eight new members of the NCHSAA Hall of Fame will be honored at Kenan Stadium on September 25 at UNC-Chapel Hill's game with the University of Louisville. The new members will officially be inducted at a Hall of Fame banquet next spring at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill.