CHERRYVILLE—Gene Banks fondly remembered his college trainer at Duke, Cherryville native Max Crowder, and ten stars from Cherryville’s sporting past along with one of its greatest teams were honored Saturday at the 2021 Cherryville Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet.
A sizable crowd of family and fans turned out for the event, revived by the organization’s board of directors after an absence of more than a dozen years.
The enshrining of the 1985 state 2A championship basketball team capped the awards ceremony at First Baptist Church’s Christian Outreach Center. That team went 30-1 and captured the school’s lone NC title in basketball under the late David Watkins.
“It was a true joy and something special to be part of,” said Jay Moss, a guard on the squad that rolled to a state crown in Greensboro. “It was made possible by members of this community and the strong culture of basketball here.”
Evoking memories of Watkins, who died of cancer in 2000, Moss added, “Coach Watkins gave us the opportunity to do something special that I will never forget.”
Cameron Lovelace was one of several multi-sport standouts to be honored, and he delivered the best lines of the evening.
A three-sport athlete in high school, Lovelace thanked his mother, Shelley, for her support in putting up with his practice schedule.
“When you come in at 9 p.m. every night, you got to put on a little hamburger helper,” said Lovelace. “So, thanks, Mom, for the hamburger helper.”
A real estate agent in Greensboro, Lovelace directed a quip at his high school coach, Scott Harrill.
“Coach Harrill gave me a message that we were only going to have three minutes to talk. Come on, Coach, I gave you four years,” he said.
Two three-sport stars, Thomas Bess and Terry Whisnant, Jr., could not attend the induction. Harrill accepted the award for Whisnant, the leading scorer in Gaston County basketball history and the No. 8 all-time scorer in the state. Harrill said the former Florida State player was in Florida for his son’s birthday.
Bess, who lives in Texas, wrote an acceptance speech read by Dr. Bud Black, a long-time assistant basketball coach.
The evening’s basketball theme continued with the induction of Harrill himself, who last season became the winningest basketball coach in Gaston County history (384-170).
Three former women’s basketball standouts accepted their awards: Ebone Johnson, who played at Gardner-Webb University; Abby Owens Hawkins, a former Wofford College player; and Sonya Black Hoyle, a star at Cherryville in the 1950s.
Trent Friday, a track standout who holds national and state records in sprint events, was on hand to accept his induction.
Honored posthumously were recreation and youth sports activist Skeet Brackett and amateur boxing great Larry Boyles.
The “fan of the year awards” went to Linda Ballard and Dr. Vince Hefner, senior pastor at First Baptist Church.
Banks, a two-time All-American at Duke who played for San Antonio and Chicago in the NBA, regaled the audience with stories about his relationship with Crowder, men’s basketball trainer at Duke for thirty years.
“Max was a great man and a funny man,” Banks said. “He represented Cherryville very well, and he was always talking about this town.”
Banks also mentioned his new position as athletics director and special advisor to the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Gaston College.
“We (Gaston College) have not had sports in fifty years, so our mission is to bring back sports at the college and to spread diversity throughout the school and throughout Gaston County,” Banks said.
(Published October 6, 2021)