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Inside Hotlanta and the SIAC

Hal LamarBy Hal Lamar
Photos b
y Patsy Collier-Lamar

The man credited with being the first person of color to step out on a National Basketball Association court says his biggest “fear”was letting down parents, friends and supporters. “I knew that if I failed, the first thing our detractors would say was, see , I told you it was a mistake to bring them (black players) into the league .” The mild- mannered native of Alexandria, Virginia has detailed his pioneering efforts in a  book “Moonfixer-The Basketball Journey of Earl Lloyd (Syracuse University Press).

Getting drafted into the NBA in early 1950 was no snap but he felt ready because of his experiences at West Virginia State University which was a member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA),a conference with a reputation for competitive basketball.”When people ask me which section of my life was important, I tell them it was West Virginia State and the CIAA,” he told INSIDE during a recent interview. “It was a fiercely competitive conference. When I went to college in 1946, I was a green freshman from a small town and playing with guys returning from World War II. I learned a lot of lessons.”Earl Lloyd Book Cover

Those lessons hardened him for life in the NBA which at that time was in its near infancy. After being drafted by the Washington Capitols in the 9th round of the 1950 NBA draft, he played seven games before having to report for military service. When he was discharged in 1952, the Capitols had folded. He got an offer to join the Syracuse (NY) Nationals ( now known as the Philadelphia 76ers)

"I told my captain (in the Army) that I had saved up my leave and wanted to go to Syracuse to try out. He gave me his blessing. I made the trip, made the team and then returned to my outfit for discharge. I then joined the Nationals permanently.” Lloyd says the first days and weeks as a professional basketball player were challenging. He was all too aware of the significance of being among the first of the race to be drafted into an all-white pro league and was bound and determined to make the grade. “ I had a long talk with my alter-ego, self, and I said if you want to make a statement, this is the time to do it. I said to me they been mistreating you and thinking you are not as good as they are.

I told myself I was going to transform myself into the Tasmanian devil.” Perhaps not as wild as the fictional cartoon character, he did make a mark on the NBA. During his ten active years, he scored 4682 points and snatched 3609 rebounds. He also helped Syracuse win the NBA title in 1955.

When his playing days were done, he became an assistant coach and scout for the Detroit Pistons. One of his scouting “finds” was Syracuse standout Dave Bing, now the mayor of Detroit. “Earl was always in my corner,” Bing wrote in the foreward for Lloyd’s book.” That’s how he was. He was always encouraging.”

In 2003, Lloyd joined an elite group of former professional players when he was inducted into the James Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.” My acceptance speech was different from most,” he remembered. “ I told the people that getting here was easy for me. There were gasps but then I expanded. I told them I came from a time and place where kids, especially athletes, did what they were told. The break I received was that the people telling me what to do knew what they were talking about. So when the time came, they propelled me right into the Hall of Fame.”

Sammeika ThomasThomasTHE SIAC: Read a great article on the SIAC web page (thesiac.com) about Miles College senior Sammeika Thomas. She is a shining example of what can be done if you want to do it and have what it takes to get it done. This “sistah” works a full time job, takes a load of classes  and then takes care of two children ages 3 and 4. Her day starts early and ends late but the transfer from Rutgers University and an early childhood education major says she is doing it for her children. The native of Birmingham can also play! She currently is leading the conference in rebounds and named the conference’s player of the week twice. Last year, she was voted the conference’s female player of the year.

XTRA POINTS: A host of black college grid programs have already released their 2012 football schedules. I noticed that Alabama A&M does have Auburn University scheduled but late in the season. The Bulldogs are scheduled to tangle with the Tigers November 17, their final regular season game. Interesting………Buddy Pough’s SC State Bulldogs will kick off the 2012 grid season in Georgia. August 30, they open against Georgia State……..Defending SIAC champ Miles College will open Sunday, September 2 against North Alabama in the 6th Labor Day Classic at Birmingham’s Legion Field……..Carver Bible College of Atlanta, one of only two historically black undergraduate colleges of theology, has been making a wave or two with its basketball team. The Cougars are 10-13 and ranked in the top 20 of the 55 leading colleges playing in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA). According to the school’s president, Robert Crummie (Benedict), “this is the best season we’ve ever had.”

Got an item? Contact Hal -> hallamar at comcast.net

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