What A Way To Spend A Saturday

Every now and then, I think maybe I should spend less time on matters relating to UNC sports. It's not that I don't enjoy these activities but I should spend more time doing other things. Believe it or not, there are things in this world that are worthwhile other than sports.

Having said that, I now must admit that the Saturday of the UNC- Connecticut game was one of the best days I have had in a very long time. So maybe when it gets right down to it, I'll postpone somewhat any redirection of my attention away from sports at least for the present.

My day began early. Me and my next door neighbor who is a staunch UNC fan even though he never attended Carolina, left Richmond at around 7:00 a.m. I had this bright idea of having breakfast at the newly opened Ukropt's, but even though I love Ukropt's, I don't think I will try that again. It opened at 7:00 and we arrived only a couple of minutes after 7:00. I should have known it was going to take them a couple of minutes to set up so the service was slow to put it mildly. For those of you in North Carolina, I am told that your counterpart to Ukropts is Harris-Teeter.

I had planned to try and stop in Bear Pond , N.C. to see if I could locate Lawrence "Cotton" Clayton the former holder of the N.C. High School career scoring record until it was broken several weeks ago by Jameson Curry. I had successfully located Mr. Clayton by asking of his whereabouts in one of my favorite BBQ joints in Henderson, Nunnary-Freeman, but I only knew he operated a place of business in Bear Pond. That was all I knew so I tried to prepare myself to be disappointed since we did not have unlimited time to devote to the task.
Other things beckoned.

We arrived in Bear Pond and I asked a stranger where Mr. Clayton might be. He motioned inside a filling station that now housed a tire and auto repair shop and even told me which one of the four gentlemen I could see inside, was "Cotton."

When we entered where the gentlemen were seated, I addressed the gentleman who had been pointed out and said I was trying to locate "Cotton" Clayton. I asked if he was that person. The reply I received was something along the lines of "I don't think he's anywhere around here," but I detected a slight smile when he said it and I heard the others chuckle. I responded by saying "Are you sure?" and then everybody burst out laughing. He was just doing what people do anytime a stranger is trying to locate one of the "home boys." For all they knew, I was the IRS man and they weren't about to show their cards to someone they didn't know.

A comment was made about the UNC sweat shirt I had on and for a minute I thought the group was going to continue giving me a rough time. That quickly disappeared, however, and what followed for the next 45 minutes was as much fun as I have had in a long time. Oh, I already said that, didn't I?

"Cotton" is about 10 years younger than me but we sure do remember some of the same things. We talked about East Carolina where "Cotton" attended for 2 years in the early 60s, some of the Carolina greats he had played against, Jameson Curry and quite a bit about the current UNC team. I asked "Cotton" how many scholarship offers he had coming out of high school and he said around 200. He said one well known coach, I think it was Vic Bubas, said that the two players he would need to achieve national prominence in basketball was Art Heyman and himself. Heyman, of course, went to Duke and "Cotton" went to Greenville and East Carolina. I asked if there was any particular reason why he chose East Carolina and his response was to the effect that "he didn't know anything about big schools." A perfectly understandable reason to choose a school and one that is frequently used by recruits today. Many times, they choose the school where they think they will be most comfortable. Nothing wrong with that.

I asked "Cotton" if he got much publicity when Jameson broke his record and his answer surprised me. He said that he did. Not living in North Carolina, I was unaware that many stories had been written about the former record holder and even more surprised to learn that "Cotton" was in attendance at the game when his record was broken. Today's newspaper says that Jameson got 65 last night and guess who was in attendance? Yep, Cotton was there also.

"Cotton says that Jameson is a nice kid, but we agreed that he may need more muscle and weight to excel at the college level. "Cotton" describes Jameson as a scorer rather than a shooter and I believe most of us understand the difference.

"Cotton" said that he still holds a N.C. basketball record that may never be broken and I agree. He once pulled down 46 rebounds in one game and you might think this would be a national record, but he says his performance ranks him in 5th place nationally. Some guy pulled down 55 in a single game. Would you believe that "Cotton" stands only 6'3". He told me of one game when they were scrimmaging UNC that he blocked a shot by Lee Shaffer and most of you know he was in the 6'7 or 6'8 range. I know from experience that having a shot blocked early in the game can have a lasting effect on you and apparently it left quite an impression on LS because he did not have a particularly good game.

I didn't want to leave, but I had other things that I wanted to accomplish before the game. I had to drop by my web master's house in Raleigh and I wanted to see if I could locate the field where UNC played its first football ever. It was at the old State Fairgrounds on Newbern Ave, and then, of course, there was the game. "Cotton" wished me luck in the game and said with a sheepish smile that I was going to need it. I'm accustomed to subtle digs by non-UNC people so I paused before responding. I then said, "You know, we've been known to surprise people before." We both smiled and I told him I would like to return some day and continue our conversation about the "good old days."

By the way, I think the win over Connecticut qualifies as "surprising some folks." If you want to know the truth, after the Maryland loss, it surprised me a little also.

By the way, I located the field where UNC and Wake Forest played the first game and I took several photos. I will write an article on this and post the photos at a later date.