I just had a chance to read a wonderful new book written by two alums. The book is called "Playing Before an Overflow Crowd" (2002; Chapel Hill Press, Inc.;201 pages) and is written by Tim Brayboy '64 and Bruce Barton '86. The book is the story of North Carolina Indian Basketball in Robeson and surrounding counties.
There are great segments on area schools including Prospect, Magnolia, Pembroke, Union Chapel, Fairgrove, Hawkeye in Hoke County and Les Maxwell in Cumberland County. It also profiles the construction of the "Old Gym" on the UNCP campus, which was built in 1938 and demolished in 1989. Its location is is now part of the water feature located in front of the Sampson-Livermore Library.
There is also a good article by Kelvin Sampson about the influence the league had on him.
This book is a labor of love. Bruce and Tim have been researching and writing it for more than four years. Really, it is a product of lifetime of experiences and reminiscences. My few words cannot adequately sum up the excitement and community feelings that surrounded this era of basketball.
Some legends were born on the hardcourts of this league, including our own Ned Sampson (father of Oklahoma coach Kelvin), Joe Oxendine, Tommy Swett and many more.
There are many great stories, like the one Tommy tells of his Les Maxwell team that practiced outdoors court on a court of packed clay. Because they could not afford uniforms at first, Les Maxwell's boys rolled up their blue jeans and played in t-shirts. As basketball fan, I am in awe.
Like most good sports stories the story of Indian Basketball has some 'what ifs.'
"You have to ask the question: 'How would these teams fared against the white and black teams'" Bruce asks? "We'll never know."
Both Bruce and Tim are from Pembroke, so there was a special challenge to play fair.
"We did not want this to be a Pembroke story. We wanted a balanced story," Bruce said. "We were able to find pictures of every high school in the league."
Bruce credits Tim for making sure every detail is accurate. The book is loaded with great stories and photos. He also thanks UNCP photographer Bobby Ayers for his diligent research into the university's photo archives.
"We had a lot of support from the university in this project," Bruce told me. "The university is an integral part of this entire story."
Always interested in history, Bruce said he was "afraid that the history of this era would fade away. This was a social phenomenon of the segregation era, and it took some strange turns."
If you are interested in purchasing a copy, contact Tim Brayboy at 916 Union St., Cary, N.C. 27511-3756 or Bruce Barton at P.O. Box 362, Pembroke, N.C. 28372-0362. The cost is $19.95 plus tax and shipping.